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Who Brought the Water Cooler to the Boardroom?
Episode

Veronica Smith Southerland, Creator of Watch My FLO Business Entrepreneurship Academy for Healthcare Professionals

Who Brought the Water Cooler to the Boardroom?

In this episode of the SONSIEL series, we have the privilege of hosting Veronica Smith Southerland, an outstanding nurse, innovative serial entrepreneur, and creator of Watch My FLO Business Entrepreneurship Academy for Healthcare Professionals. Veronica talks about her passion for healthcare and the genesis of her entrepreneurial spirit. She also discusses how her businesses keep non-emergent patients in their homes and manage them, giving more room and available staff to handle cases that need the space for emergencies. Vee also shares some of the challenges she’s faced and how she had to pivot her business to survive financial difficulties. We covered quite a range of health-related topics in this great interview , so make sure to listen and enjoy!

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Who Brought the Water Cooler to the Boardroom?

About Veronica Southerland

Veronica is an outstanding nurse, APRN, MSN, serial entrepreneur, and ultimately a board-certified family nurse practitioner by the American Academy of Nurse Credentialing Center, holding a license provided by the state of North Carolina to provide family-centered health care to patients of all ages. Her scope of practice encompasses health promotion, disease prevention, diagnosis and management of common and complex health care problems beginning in childhood and continuing through the aging process. Her career began in nursing’s most crisis-oriented areas, such as the emergency departments, cardiovascular trauma, medical and surgical intensive care units, as well as interventional cardiac procedural units. After seeing that there was a health disparity in the underserved populations, she began trying to close the gap of knowledge from hospitalization to care given in a patient’s home by which she opened a home health agency that serve the state of North Carolina with four locations and South Carolina with two locations, as previously founding member and chief executive officer of Tri Souths Health Services Inc. and one source of the Carolinas LLC. She is just an extraordinary care provider and an entrepreneur.

Who Brought the Water Cooler to the Boardroom? with Veronica Smith Southerland, Creator of Watch My FLO Business Entrepreneurship Academy for Healthcare Professionals: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Who Brought the Water Cooler to the Boardroom? with Veronica Smith Southerland, Creator of Watch My FLO Business Entrepreneurship Academy for Healthcare Professionals: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Saul Marquez:
Hey Outcomes Rocket Nation, Saul Marquez here. Have you heard of SONSIEL? That’s the Society of Nurse Scientists, Innovators, Entrepreneurs and Leaders. We’ve teamed up with them to put together a podcast series for nurses month. In this 12-part series, we’ll magnify and elevate nurse innovators’ expertise as transformation agents who contribute to health care reform and improved outcomes. Through interviews with these amazing nurse leaders and innovators, we’ll help you connect the dots in a world where nurses are significant leaders recognized for transforming health care and society. Visit outcomesrocket.health/sonsiel to learn more. That’s outcomesrocket.health/sonsiel S O N S E I L to learn more.

Saul Marquez:
Hey everybody, welcome back to the Outcomes Rocket, Saul Marquez here, and today I have the pleasure of hosting Veronica Smith Southerland. She is an outstanding nurse, APRN, MSN, serial entrepreneur, and ultimately a board-certified family nurse practitioner by the American Academy of Nurse Credentialing Center, holding a license provided by the state of North Carolina to provide family-centered health care to patients of all ages. Her scope of practice encompasses health promotion, disease prevention, diagnosis and management of common and complex health care problems beginning in childhood and continuing through the aging process. Her career began in nursing’s most crisis-oriented areas, such as the emergency departments, cardiovascular trauma, medical and surgical intensive care units, as well as interventional cardiac procedural units. After seeing that there was a health disparity in the underserved populations, she began trying to close the gap of knowledge from hospitalization to care given in a patient’s home by which she opened a home health agency that serve the state of North Carolina with four locations and South Carolina with two locations, as previously founding member and chief executive officer of Tri Souths Health Services Inc. and one source of the Carolinas LLC. She is just an extraordinary care provider and an entrepreneur, and as part of the SONSIEL leadership series focused on the importance and power of the nurse. I am so privileged to have Veronica join us here today. Veronica, thanks for being with us.

Veronica Southerland:
Thank you. I don’t know who you were reading about, but she sounds pretty awesome.

Saul Marquez:
You are awesome. Sometimes we like are so just head down getting things done that you’re like, wow, I actually did all that.

Veronica Southerland:
Right, exactly. You wake up one day and you go, oh, I’ve been busy the last 20 years. I’m honored to be here. Thank you for having me.

Saul Marquez:
Oh my gosh. It’s a pleasure. And I’m excited for our chat today, Veronica. So before we get into the blocking and tackling the nitty-gritty, let’s talk about what inspires your work and health care. Talk to us about that.

Veronica Southerland:
Well, exactly what my bio says. I originally got started as a health care entrepreneur because I was working in the E.R., the emergency department. So I wanted to provide preventative care. And what that meant was closing the gap for those individuals that were frequent flyers in the emergency room where they were most often utilizing the emergency room for primary care issues instead of what it was intentionally made for, which is to keep you from dying. So the emergency room is for issues where you imminently could die. And so that gap was ever so present. And so what I wanted to do basically was help people stay at home and not have to come to the emergency rooms because, again, as I said before, we all know that that drives up the cost of health care. And so being able to provide home care services for those people who needed management of their chronic comorbidities or that needed skilled nursing services that could be provided in the home versus coming into the hospital. That was initially how I got started. And so I opened a home care agency in North Carolina. And because I had worked in health care and in the acute care setting, the hospitals, a lot of the physicians knew me. So I was able to honestly build a very viable business on word of mouth referrals from colleagues to provide those services that people needed in their home instead of, again, coming into the emergency room. So that’s how I initially got started in health care as a business owner.

Saul Marquez:
That’s amazing. Well, kudos to you, Veronica, for doing this. I mean, you could have just said, man, this is just what it is. So we’ll provide care. I’m here to execute on a task. But you step back and said, you know what, there’s more that could be done here. And it’s that type of action, that type of leadership action that really makes a difference for communities and the health care system at large. So your home care business, then you, I guess the main funding source, was it Medicaid dollars?

Veronica Southerland:
So initially when we first got started, yes, it’s based on Medicaid because that’s where we can get, of course, reimbursement from. And then we ventured into private pay. And then third-party payers for insurances, more of supplemental insurance because most major medical insurance carriers don’t cover health care. They cover home health for a very limited time. And it’s generally about four to six weeks. So home care is being able to offer assistance with daily living. Things like bathing, dressing, grooming, we’ve been we’re able to provide the skilled nursing staff that was needed, like wound care or tube feeding those types of things were or medication administration. So we’re able to then add additional services, which we were able to provide services for people that in any other instance, would have had to go to the hospital for inpatient. So we were able to keep those dollars circulating in our health care system as they should, and keep those patients at home that could be managed at home safely and properly by appropriate licensed health care nurses.

Saul Marquez:
I love it. Good for you. You didn’t have to do that. You could have just punched in and punched out. Why did you do it?

Veronica Southerland:
I’m very transparent. And so what I’ll say is to that is I was tired of working really, really hard for the same people all the time. And so I felt as though our health care system was tilted. And what I mean by that is if you bog down the ER system with things like to fix hangnails, that does not lend itself to a very efficient health care system for the people that really need trauma services or are coming in with a what we call a cardiac arrest like the emergencies. So we would have to really work hard to keep the people who were not necessarily in critical condition happy while we were trying to save a life. And so I thought, you know what, you’d be happier at your house dealing with whatever this issue is, instead of coming in to see me every month. And a lot of people, again, don’t always understand how to use their primary care provider or sometimes don’t even have one. And so for those particular patients, they honestly were much better off in their own environment anyway. Less stress, they are exposed to less, I’m going to say bacteria because it’s there in their own environment.

Veronica Southerland:
And so the more that we can keep the people who are non-emergent in their homes and manage those people, we have more room and more available staff to be able to handle those cases that really need the space for emergencies. So I just kind of saw it like, hey, I got to do my part and I started kind of serving in patients. Hey, listen, know you’re coming in here every month for blood pressure issues. If you had somebody to come to your house and they would oh, my God, I would love that. So the response from the patients was like, yeah, who wants to come into the ER and wait for five hours? Nobody if they don’t have to. So they would much prefer to have care at home anyway. So again, you’re talking 20 years ago at this point. And so I just kind of took the idea and was very innovative and creative with it and just want to, hey, we can do this at home. Let’s see how we can make it work. Right.

Saul Marquez:
It’s so practical, such a great thing for the people coming in for that care and makes the E.R. even more efficient. So I think that’s amazing. And so there’s another thing that you’re up to. It’s called My Flo. Tell us about that.

Veronica Southerland:
So life happened and I grew the business from one office to six. Like my bio said, we ended up with two hundred employees in 2008. We had a change of administration with the Obama administration came in. And so he made a lot of changes for small businesses. And so that affected health care in a not so great way. And so I actually had to close all of my offices except for two that were based on contracts at the Department of Social Services. So we were getting state funding from that. So we were able to kind of hang on to a very small population of patients. And during that time, financially, I suffered personally from bankruptcy and trying to salvage the business. There were a lot of changes with Medicaid at that time. If you remember, we had a recession, so people that were paying privately could no longer afford it because they were no longer working and making salaries that they were making before. So we had a lot of changes to pay your sources. So what I had to do was pivot. That’s the word of the day now. So back in 2008, I had to pivot the business. And so I went back to school, became an advanced practitioner because before I was operating as a registered nurse.

Veronica Southerland:
And so I went back to school, I got my nurse practitioner so that I could provide even a higher level of care for patients as a provider versus just as a nurse. And so I went from taking orders to now giving them and I opened four offices in Charlotte. And so it grew from there. And literally, again, that same kind of practical application of health care, going back to doctors, doing house calls back in the day, house calls as a nurse practitioner, and built a very viable practice here locally. And so the patients that were dehydrated from an acute illness, let’s just say they had you know, they were dehydrated from traveling or had jet lag or were trying to overcome some sort of gastric issue, I started giving them IV hydration. And so they loved it and it became a thing. And so patients that were no longer sick wanted to have their IV hydration drips, but more on the preventive side of it. And so you can’t charge insurance for that. Insurance doesn’t pay for wellness. Right. Only for your sick, which is crazy.

Saul Marquez:
It is. Another topic.

Veronica Southerland:
It’s another topic. So I had to create another business model for that part of the business and it literally took off. And so we say shout out to Kim Kardashian because she made it popular. She made IV drips popular, so then everybody wanted to do it for everybody wanted to have these vitamin blends to make them feel better, be better, look better. And so it became a trendy part of health care. Even though the micronutrient therapy truly is viable, your body truly does benefit from all of the vitamins and minerals working to help your body function in its optimal level, t just took off. And so I have to come in from everywhere that just wanted the drip. And I was like, OK, so what do we do with this? And so I took my passion to help people feel good and do it at home again. That’s still the same.

Saul Marquez:
Principle model that you know.

Veronica Southerland:
Exactly. And it turned into a million-dollar business literally. So it just became it was difficult initially because I there wasn’t a lot of information out about micronutrient therapy at the time. And we’re talking about eight years ago.

Saul Marquez:
You’re a pioneer in this thing.

Veronica Southerland:
Yeah, and who knew? I just wanted people to feel good, like I just wanted my little old ladies to be perky and it worked. And so word of mouth yet again is the best marketing tool. People start talking about it and people call it they were stopping by the practice is just like, oh, yeah, I want that thing. What are you talking about? So it was the truth. Exactly. And so Watch My Flo was born out of flo hydration and wellness. And so I took the feeling that I want things to just kind of flow easy. I’m pretty laid back most of the time and I kind of go with the flow. And so it just made sense for me.

Saul Marquez:
It just worked out.

Veronica Southerland:
It did. It did. So it just the brand was born Flo Hydration and Wellness, which again has rolled it to Watch My Flo, which is actually the academy where I teach other health care entrepreneurs how to start hydration IV businesses. I teach it around the country because 2020 taught us that health care may not be the be-all, and we have to approach it a little differently. So as health care providers, people are kind of looking for something in addition to their service at the hospital or whatever acute care or ambulatory care setting they’re working in. And so here we are, having trained over eight hundred and fifty health care entrepreneurs over the past two and a half, three years on IV hydration business and so.

Saul Marquez:
It’s awesome.

Veronica Southerland:
It’s wonderful. And we’re opening in Ghana in June.

Saul Marquez:
I saw that. That’s amazing. Yeah, well, a fantastic story, Veronica. I mean, I just love it. You know, the first business, you got a couple of punches, but you got right back up and you prepared. And if it does happen again, you’ve got this to kind of bifurcated strategy to make sure that the business is safe.

Veronica Southerland:
Absolutely. Absolutely. It did happen. It was COVID.

Saul Marquez:
Again.

Veronica Southerland:
Yeah. So you have to which is why I use the word pivot. So I think people thought pivot was coined in 2020. It was not for the business. And so yet again I was, but I was more prepared in 2020 when I had to shut down or we had to make provisions to make sure we had to keep staff safe from that kind of thing. So pivot for me was not quite in 2020. Pivot for me started twenty years ago when you have to kind of figure out how to move into shape or how to manage multiple things at the same time to get the best outcome. It may not be your ideal outcome, but it may be the best outcome at the time. 2020 has been good and bad. Good in the sense that I was able to curate a whole wellness center during a pandemic while we were sat down and decided to incorporate IV hydration into the wellness center. For all aspects. I own a pain management practice. And so for those patients who have chronic pain and suffer from other comorbidities, they were suffering of course, during COVID. You couldn’t get out, you couldn’t go anywhere, you couldn’t do your normal thing. And so we kind of forget about those people that are that were already homebound and that we’re already living that quote-unquote, best life at the time, so we were able to kind of incorporate wellness to include physical wellness, the mental health part of wellness that a lot of people are dealing with on a regular basis. And then on top of that, you had a pandemic. And then we have a whole new situation, of course. And so we’re able to incorporate mental health wellness where we now do ketamine infusions for patients who are dealing with anxiety, depression, and a lot of which honestly have affected health care providers, nurses and medical technicians, your respiratory therapist, your doctors, or the housekeeping staff at the hospital, everybody was affected. And so we no longer have that. I’ll always have a job and health care mentality because COVID has taught us you might not know. And so and then we were able to add ascetic wellness under our wellness umbrella because people want to feel pretty, even if you have to do a zoom every day for the rest of your life.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, you want to look good.

Veronica Southerland:
Exactly, you want to look and feel good. So we were able to curate this model of wellness that honestly is the only model like this that I know of. I’ve done the research, especially in the southeastern region. There’s nothing like this. And so COVID, give me time to just kind of think and be brilliant. I like to say. I used to say crazy, but I use the word brilliant instead.

Saul Marquez:
It’s a good substitute.

Veronica Southerland:
I had to come up with. Exactly. Exactly. So, yeah, but it just can’t work. And so we were able to pull all the aspects of wellness together to help many, many different patients. So wellness, in general, includes IV hydration for sure, but there are so many facets of wellness.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. Well, I’m glad we went there. What a great story. Just parlays your first experience with home care to this new one and really gets to the center of the innovative leader scientist spirit of nurses and folks, you’re listening to this. You’re like, whoa, this is awesome. What a great story. Well, yeah, and it is fantastic. And this is the type of work that nurses do. Veronica, what do you believe people need to know that maybe they don’t know about the role of nursing?

Veronica Southerland:
Um, well, I think most people, again, consider nursing as a profession to be the most trusted profession. I think we’ve been coined that for the past twenty years. And so patients generally will trust information that nurses give based on whatever their current situation is. Outside of the trusts that patients have for us, I think just people in the community at large, people in general because you have to be a nurturer to be a nurse. It takes a special person. It takes a special nurse to work in the different specialties that we have. And so I think innately we are givers. Innately we have the spirit of there’s got to be a better way. And so you just kind of take that, throw in a little tenacity, some spunk, a little bit of the laughter, and you come out with something that is incredible, something that is could be disruptive and I mean disruptive in a great way and innovative and creative and fulfilling. And so I know for myself, I always have that this can’t be it kind of mentality, like it’s got to be more. So I just think my style has been in life to be that change agent. Let’s push the envelope. Let’s see what are some of the limitations and some of the barriers that we can overcome and break through. SONSIEL is honestly has been a catalyst for that. So again, I’m honored to be a part of such a group of wonderful badass nurses. I don’t know if I can say that.

Saul Marquez:
You can. You know you said you’re direct. I love that about you.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. I can’t help it. They are badasses. All the nurses we spoke to.

Veronica Southerland:
That’s the ER Training.

Saul Marquez:
there’s no time to like to be fluffy here. Get to the point.

Veronica Southerland:
We’re changing lives and saving them at the same time. So then regardless of whether you’re in acute care or not, whether you’re a nursing student trying to figure it out, trying to pass your AP exam, that tenacity that it takes to be a nurse is already there. And so I think as veteran nurses, we just have to cultivate a culture of nursing more so that more people want to go into nursing and they understand that there’s more nursing and just being a nurse at the bedside. There are so many different things that you can do. I created my own way from a gap that I saw with working at the bedside. So nurses are innovators. We’re creators. We’re inventors. We are in informatics. We’re everywhere.

Saul Marquez:
Everywhere.

Veronica Southerland:
Literally.

Saul Marquez:
Fifty percent of all care. I’ve learned this through the SONSIEL series. Fifty percent of all care is provided by nurses.

Veronica Southerland:
Absolutely. Just the breadth of care. The quantity of care. I’m overwhelmed and I mean, just learning so much from all of you, so and I know the listeners are, too. So you have led from the front line and you are a leader of a business of clinics. Give us an example of when you saw your nursing team provide a great solution to a problem.

Veronica Southerland:
Trying to get PPE during COVID. Trying to make sure that patients are taken care of even before they take care of themselves, which was beautiful and horrible at the same time. And so I think we have to remember those and I call them fallen heroes, our fallen colleagues as well, that ultimately paid the price of their life to take care of patients during the pandemic. Recently that is the thing that’s in the forefront of my brain, is seeing people give masl and they didn’t even have a mask or to share gown when they didn’t have a gown, like those types of things. And so just selflessness to the degree that they care, selflessness to the degree that they are dedicated to it speaks volumes to the character of the nurse. And so I think there is no there’s no more beautiful story than that, honestly.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. Oh, my gosh. I just got goosebumps by that. And a lot of nurses at the beginning, everybody was getting COVID just remembered, like a lot of friends and family, friends and friends of friends, like, yeah, she got COVID. When you’re on the front lines doing what you’re doing, this is a big deal. And another point that one of the other nurse leaders brought up, Veronica, is that the majority of people administering the vaccine are nurses. So thank your nurse when you get your vaccine.

Veronica Southerland:
Absolutely. Absolutely. I have six testing centers here that we oversee. And so the nurses are doing the tests. We get the results and our providers will. We at first were calling everyone the lab would call. And the joke was, you guys have to make three hundred calls today because we literally were calling like every single person, whether they were positive or not, just to say even if it was high in your negative, it’s a listen, you’re negative, but these are the things you can do to continue to do your part or it’s hey, unfortunately, you’re positive these are the things that you can do to make sure that you’re in the best position to fight this thing. So or to try to ask them when they need it to go to the E.R. because some people were so afraid of this thing, initially popped off to even go to the hospital when they needed to. So there was a lot of education. And so I did an interview with our local news here. And so I was telling them we are the front line for the front line. Even though we’re not in the hospital setting, we are still communicating and educating people in our community so that they know when to go to the E.R., so that they know when to go get tested or what they’re looking for. So we did our part and I absolutely love every single person that was on my team that helped get through that when we were doing COVID telemedicine visits to make sure that people were taking care of even in their home.

Saul Marquez:
Fantastic. Yeah, that’s just wonderful. That’s just wonderful, Veronica. And what would you say you’re most excited about today?

Veronica Southerland:
Um, um, probably really excited about opening up the Flo Hydration and Wellness in Ghana. I cannot believe that we are to be international. I just never thought that this little girl from the County of North Carolina, would ever, ever be in a position to provide health and wellness for people on another continent. Like that blows my mind, let alone.

Saul Marquez:
Why Ghana? Why did you decide on Ghana?

Veronica Southerland:
Ghana kind of decided me, actually. At least every other year, but of course, because of COVID, we were very limited. So stop on the roads to be able to do a waterwheel dedication because some of the villages, of course, still have pot water. And so I went over the visit and was a part of that whole dedication. And I was talking to one of the physicians and I said, you know, IV hydration is what we need in Ghana to be able to provide another level of wellness. And he agreed and he was just so let’s make it happen. Literally, an hour later, I was sitting in a boardroom with attorneys and builders and construction people and the design team and they’re like, OK, what do you need us to do? And I thought, really? And so obviously, because they understand the benefit of wellness and they’ve seen it do very, very well, of course, in the states and even internationally, there’s I.V. hydration, Bali. There are some places in Asia. It’s all over the world. And so people now recognizing that micronutrient therapy is great at preventive care, like a preventive wellness. And it makes sense. And so every country is trying to make sure that they are putting their residents and their citizens in the best physical condition to be able to fight off anything that would, of course, be detrimental to their health. And so this is just a perfect time to explore those options and pay as a disrupter, as a game-changer, I’m game. Let’s do it. So we’re doing it.

Saul Marquez:
I love it. So your platform Vee the NP?

Veronica Southerland:
It is. I am Vee the NP across all social media platforms and I am veethenp@gmail.com if someone wants to reach out via email. And so I don’t really do social media a whole lot because I’m kind of busy.

Saul Marquez:
I wouldn’t have guessed out of all this stuff you told me.

Veronica Southerland:
I enjoy building the community via social media. I really do. The nurses are so supportive. Nursing students and nurses that are still on the front line of work Ricco but assignments and nurses that are ready to retire but want to do a little something different, I’m not quite sure what to do with that. So my audience, my target audience is everybody. So there are millions of nurses out there that I don’t know and I’d love to know each and every one of them. So please feel free to reach out to me. I would love to hear from you.

Saul Marquez:
That’s fantastic. Well, you certainly are an inspiring leader, Vee. A fantastic person. And I’m really glad we got to spend some time with you as part of this SONSIEL Nurse Leadership series. Keep innovating. Keep doing the amazing things that you’re doing. We need them. And so our big thank you from all of us.

Veronica Southerland:
It is my honor and privilege to serve.

Saul Marquez:
Thanks for tuning in to the SONSIEL Nurse Leadership series. For the show notes and to learn more about how you could have nurses join your mission, visit us at OutcomesRocket.Health/SONSIEL. That’s OutcomesRocket.Health/SONSIEL.

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Things You’ll Learn

  • And so the more that we can keep the people who are non emergent in their homes and manage those people, we have more room and more available staff to be able to handle those cases that really need the space for the emergencies.
  • Nurses have a spirit of there’s got to be a better way. 
  • Push the envelope. 
  • As veteran nurses, we just have to cultivate a culture of nursing more so that more people want to go into nursing and they understand that there’s more nursing and just being a nurse at the bedside.
  • Micronutrient therapy is great at preventive care.

 

Resources

Twitter @VeetheNP

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/veronica-southerland-5078a9161

Email: veethenp@gmail.com

Company : FLO Hydration & Wellness