When Christine Ouma went to the US, she was only 20, with no dreams of ever owning a business. Going to America to study nursing was her dream and in 2001, she felt that she had actualised it.
“I studied nursing at Houston Community College, got my first licence in 2008 and then became a certified registered nurse after studying at Excelsior College in Albany, New York in 2020. Now I am a certified registered nurse infusion,” she says.
When she became an infusion nurse, she knew one day she would own her own agency. Demand for infusion nurses is high because not every nurse can give medications or fluids through a needle or catheter.
An ageing and ill population have spurred a high demand for nurses in the US and the UK, as the need for treatment in homes grows.
In 2018, she established her company, but first as a side hustle.
“In June this year, I decided to quit and focus fully on my business, Home Infusions Agency, which provides nursing for home infusion, infusion centres in doctors’ offices and pharmacies,” she says.
What makes it easier to do business in the US unlike countries like Kenya, she says, is the laid-out structures.
“It is easier to own this type of business here because the rules and guidelines, protocols and structures, however stringent, have been established, studied, written down, therefore; making it safe to practise as an independent nurse,” she says.
Nursing has evolved over the years, opening job opportunities for many.
“Nursing is so vast with many different specialities. But it can be quite overwhelming if you don’t know what you like. I was lucky to find a fit pretty early on in my career. After going through about seven jobs that I highly disliked, in less than a year, I landed on infusion nursing by sheer luck,” she says.
She started the business as the only employee and would ask her nursing friends to cover for her when she had to travel to see patients.
Demand for her services has grown and she has now hired 10 employees. Three of the workers handle the office and seven nurses are always on home visits or doctor’s clinics that require their services.
“We mostly give medicine to patients with chronic illnesses such as neurological conditions, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and colitis, but there are also those with end-stage heart disease, infectious diseases that need intravenous antibiotics for extended periods, malnutrition and more,” she says.
Ms Ouma says an infusion nurse can see anywhere from up to six patients a day.
“If the nurse is at a patient’s home, they can only deal with one patient at a time, but when at an infusion centre, the nurse sees up to three patients at a time. Some treatments are as little as 15 minutes long, others can go for eight hours or longer. Many different factors determine how many patients we can safely see per day,” she says.
The only challenge she says is compliance.
“You must get everything to be compliant with State of Texas requirements for this type of business. They seem like challenges at first, but with time they become the standards of practice. The learning curve is very steep, but worth it,” she says.
Most of her clients are on a referral basis, mostly from speciality infusion pharmacies and doctors’ offices.
“We get calls from neurologists, rheumatologists, gastroenterologists, some urologists who deal with diseases like gout, and cardiologists who treat end-stage heart disease patients. I have gotten referrals has been through word-of-mouth from clients and previous co-workers,” says Ms Ouma, who is in her early 40s.
For those looking to start such a business, she says, having skills is key. “If you have seen a gap, you have the skills, knowledge, and passion, find a way to fill it and go for it.”
“Train people looking to open infusion suites, pharmacies and nurses on how to go into the home infusion market, ensuring the best delivery of care to patients while cutting costs to insurance and other payers, and also reducing infections, injuries, or deaths. That’s where my expertise comes in,” she says.