Two nurses, with more than three decades of combined nursing experience, founded ShiftWizard. What would drive two nurses to make the leap to entrepreneurship? They wanted to create a workforce management software solution to address the scheduling challenges and frustrations they had directly experienced throughout their healthcare careers. I sat down with Christian Pardue and Shane Parker to learn more.
Tell me a little more about your nursing background.
Shane: I started my 14-year nursing career in the Emergency Department: straight out of nursing school at a small rural hospital called Central Carolina Hospital, in Sanford, NC. After three years, I moved to a larger regional hospital, FirstHealth of the Carolina’s – Moore Regional, where I also worked in the Emergency Department. I then went on to work at WakeMed Health and Hospitals, in Raleigh, NC, where Christian and I met. At WakeMed I covered a lot of ground, including the Adult and Pediatric Emergency Department and Trauma Centers, Invasive Cardiology, and Critical Care Transport.
Christian: I took a slightly different path, spending three years as a nurse in an adult and pediatric open-heart unit in Florida, followed by three years as a travel nurse. I then left nursing and spent six years in sales at Philips Medical Systems, before returning to nursing for another ten years. Both Shane and I continued to work as nurses for the first few years, as we built ShiftWizard.
What drove you to start ShiftWizard?
Shane: We saw firsthand the pain of paper schedules. We knew there had to be a better way to manage that process. Only a couple of companies had electronic scheduling at the time and none of it was very good. We knew there was a true need for something better. We, and everyone else, were frustrated about having to do everything on paper. It was especially frustrating to have to go into the hospital, even on your day off, to put in your scheduling requests. We also saw too many nursing managers spending hours and hours of their time trying to manage the monstrosity of scheduling on paper when they were needed elsewhere. It was frustrating all around.
Christian: Like Shane, I knew there was a need for a better solution, based on my personal experience as a nurse. However, I think my experience at Philips really helped me better understand the healthcare software market. I truly understood how important it was to build a product with your specific target audience in mind, and the importance of truly relating to and connecting with your customers. I was excited about being able to make a difference in another way.
What was that transition from nurse to entrepreneur like for you?
Shane: I feel like I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and loved the idea of building something and watching it grow. We started mapping it out on paper and hired a third party developer to bring it to life. It was difficult and sometimes frustrating, but at the same time rewarding. We continued to work as nurses three days a week for the first few years.
Christian: The transition for me was especially tough because I loved being a nurse. To me, you are either a nurse or you are not. It is at the core of who I am. I had already left nursing once and made the decision to come back because I missed it so much. It wasn’t easy to give up something I really enjoyed and I still miss it today, but I love being an entrepreneur. For me, it’s exciting to know that I can still make a difference in the healthcare industry, in a very different way.
Here is a funny story that our customers might enjoy. Coming from a critical care background, especially working nights, Shane and I were so used to listening for alarms while on duty. It seriously took at least two to three years to get that automatic response reflex out of our system. For the first few years after starting ShiftWizard, when I was on the hospital floor showing the product, I would hear a code called and would almost jump up to check on it. I was ready to go into action. Once a nurse, always a nurse, I guess.
Shane: I still hear those IV pumps, cardiac monitors, and ventilators in my sleep!
How has your nursing background influenced the growth and success of the company?
Shane: When clients or potential clients learn that we are nurses, it really opens doors for us. They know we can relate and they are willing to let their guard down. They know that we have been there, done that. They understand that we have been through what they are going through and that we understand their pain.
Even though we are no longer practicing nurses, we are constantly in hospitals, talking to and working with our customers, hearing their pains, etc. We also hear what they think would work better. We’re constantly taking that feedback and implementing new features into ShiftWizard to help ease those pains they’re dealing with day-in and day-out. We are still very connected to our customers, still attend all the conferences and are still very in touch with what is going on with them.
Christian: I think the product is as good as it is because it comes directly from our nursing background. Everything that went into the product came from a 100 percent focus on healthcare. It was truly built with healthcare in mind. Today, we may not be the only product on the market that came directly from healthcare, but we are certainly one of the few and are still probably the only workforce management solution built by nurses.
Staying connected with nursing is easy for us. In reality, I would say we are even more connected with nursing than we used to be. When working as bedside nurses, we were focused on patient care. I used to go to work and spend all day with my patients. Today, I get to go to work and spend all day with nurses, nurse leaders, and other healthcare staff. We are much more focused on nursing as a profession and healthcare as an industry. We go to so many shows and speak to thousands of nurses and other healthcare professionals each year.
Shane has certainly stepped into an industry leadership role as a member of a Convened Expert Panel on the ANA Advisory Board for Workforce Management.
When we go to these events or participate in these groups, we bring that insight home and use it to continually improve our product. We are committed to getting out there and understanding not just what they need today in a product, but what they need next month, next year. That way, it is ready for them when they need it. That is probably why we have never had a competitor replace ShiftWizard in a hospital, nor have we had a hospital end a contract with ShiftWizard. Maria Parham in Henderson, NC was our first customer and remains as a customer to this day.