I get a lot of connection requests on LinkedIn or just random questions asking, “how did I get into the industry, as a nurse?” or “what made me make the transition to industry from nursing?” For me, it was a transition that made sense. My career trajectory has been a little atypical. I am a former NICU nurse. While pursuing my MSN in nursing education, I was approached to consider a teaching role at the local community college in my hometown. I obtained this role and fell in love with the art of teaching. I worked on my post-Master FNP certificate during this time and prepared to become an FNP. I also got married and moved to Virginia.
My husband is the one who introduced me to the concept of working in the pharmaceutical industry. I knew and interacted with pharmaceutical representatives, but I never knew that nurses worked for those companies. My husband was a territory representative, who worked in diabetes at the time. My husband is brilliant, and I would rival that he knew as much about the disease state as any provider. So, when he came home and said “Babe, you should consider being a nurse educator for a pharmaceutical company….,” it piqued my interest. I asked a lot of questions about it because I did not know what it was. What is an industry nurse educator? What do they do? Who do they interact with? What does each day look like? How are they compensated? How are you measured for outcomes?
After asking all my questions, my husband connected me with a few people he knew in his network. I talked with pharmacists, PhDs, and MDs and they all loved their roles. However, I never spoke with a nurse. The background experience with people I did talk with either were educators or had some type of patient-facing experience. So, in 2010, I applied and accepted my first industry position as a Clinical Resource Nurse with a contracting company that was hired by a large pharmaceutical company. I loved it. I got a chance to combine my passion for education and patient care & provide education to front/back staff about disease state and product knowledge. The idea was that if the front and back staff were more knowledgeable about the disease state and the product then they would be an increased asset to the providers, which could decrease the burden to them (i.e., triage more patient calls). I eventually left this role after a brief time due to the excessive travel, but I knew one day I would return to industry.
People ask all the time if I miss being in practice and my answer is not really because I get to take care of patients from a different angle. When I was in practice, I would take care of patients, but it would be at the micro-level – one patient at a time. The interventions I would implement with them would hopefully impact them, their family, their extended family and so on by just word of mouth. However, working in industry as a nurse or nurse practitioner, my purview is at a macro-level and I could impact the lives of not just one patient at time, but hundreds to thousands at a time. We work with healthcare providers, academic centers, medical organizations, and patient advocacy organizations on a daily basis ensuring that each of those entities understand our products, but this is just from the medical side of our organization.
There are nurses/NPs that are in research & development, sales, clinical development, regulatory affairs, occupational health, and the list goes on. Nurses/NPs can impact industry/pharmaceuticals by so many levels. We are the most trusted profession for the 21st year in the row. We are at the patients’ side longer than any other healthcare provider in the healthcare system. So, who knows the healthcare system better than us? Who can provide more insights than us? We are our own mini-advisory board within most companies and could help save thousands of dollars of fees if someone would tap into the nurse resources they already have within their companies for product development or consider hiring more nurse professionals.
I am not advocating for nurses to leave the bedside. I loved working in the NICU and would still be there had there been more opportunities for growth. What I am advocating for is options. When I was in nursing school, I was exposed to the precertification nurse within insurance companies. I got to shadow a BSN nurse who worked for a large insurance carrier and would precertify procedures for patients. Now, being a first-semester nursing student, I didn’t even know this was an option for nurses. I thought it was bedside or nothing. To my surprise, I saw that there was another avenue besides being at the bedside and I could choose another direction whenever I was ready.
This is what I want to present to the world now. We will always need our fellow beside nurses. We will always be needed in the trenches and on the frontlines. However, when the time comes that you are ready to make that transition and choose another path, please know that there is always another path….and consider industry/pharmaceutical nursing.
Tracy Wilson, DNP, MBe, MSN-Ed., RN ,FNP-C is a Director – Field Medical, Antivirals located in Houston, TX. Dr. Wilson has been with Pfizer, Inc. for almost 4 years. She has been a part of several health equity/disparities & DE & I projects in her short tenure and worked with regional and national patient advocacy organizations. She is a member of several professional medical organizations, including ANA, AANP, TNA, TNP, NBNA, NBNPA, and HBA.
She possesses a Doctorate in Nursing Practice from Belmont University. She also has a Post-Master Graduate Certificate from the University of Kentucky and is a Board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner, through AANP. She graduated from Bellarmine University, with a Master of Science in Nursing Education. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of Louisville. Dr. Wilson just recently received a MS in Bioethics and Medical Humanities from Tulane University School of Medicine, in which her thesis was on Medical Gaslighting. Dr. Wilson has spent most of her clinical career in pediatrics and Urgent Care. She also has an extensive academic career, teaching pre-licensure nursing students in community college and university programs.
Dr. Wilson is married to her wonderful husband, Otis, of almost 15 years. They have two children, O’Rylee Jaymes and Otis James “Tre’ “, who keep them very busy with cheerleading, dance and sports. They are avid travelers and have visited countries such as Mauritius, Bali, South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco, Italy, and most of the islands in the Caribbean.