“Wow...I didn’t expect to be here.”
That phrase is what Jeff Solheim says sums up his entire career.
“If you told me when I graduated from nursing school when I was 20 years old that I would one day own a multi-million dollar company and be the face of our profession, I would have laughed at you,” Jeff admits.
Jeff faced quite a journey on the path to his current career success. Healthcare interested him from a young age, but it wasn't until Jeff was 15 and diagnosed with cancer that he got a real, up-close look at the medical field. And it fascinated him.
After a year of being a patient, Jeff was cancer-free. But his interest in medicine had taken off.
Jeff opted to stay close to home and get a nursing certificate after high school. Eventually, he landed in the emergency unit at a hospital. It was the perfect fit.
“I have never looked back,” Jeff says. “It’s been my home ever since I got there. I really found my place in the emergency department,” he adds.
A leap to administration.
After working with patients directly for the first few years of his career, Jeff was ready to move on to administration.
He says the transition was a challenge. There wasn’t specific training or education for going from a nurse to nurse manager.
“It probably took me two or three years to really feel my stride,” he admits.
But after dedicating time, finding mentors to help him, and recognizing the leadership qualities he already had, he felt confident in his management abilities and was able to move forward as a great leader.
To Jeff, professionalism is a huge part of nursing.
“Professional organizations like the Emergency Nurses Association is just core to nursing. Part of being a white-collar professional is being involved in your professional nursing organization so you as a voice can advance the profession,” he says.
Jeff joined the Emergency Nurses Association soon after choosing emergency nursing as his specialty. He went from local to state involvement, then advanced to the national level. Eventually, he was elected to serve as the president of the association. This meant Jeff was the face of the entire profession, and his voice inspired change for nurses around the world.
Jeff’s path to a degree.
After some time as a nursing manager, Jeff decided to step out from that field, and start his own company. He recognized the importance of helping nurses be educated and prepared for their certification.
Before too long, the company had taken off.
Jeff’s successful company provides education and seminars for nurses. One thing Jeff always focuses on when speaking or teaching is professionalism.
“Part of being professional is seeking further education,” he says.
Jeff didn’t technically need a degree. He was running a multi-million dollar company, was serving in professional nursing organizations, had worked in a variety of nursing positions, and had been in high-level management for years.
But Jeff knew he needed to finish his education.
“For me, returning back to school was practicing what I preached,” Jeff admits.
Jeff knew he needed to model the professional behavior he spoke about to nurses around the world. But running multiple companies, working as an in-flight nurse, and spending time with his family all made his schedule incredibly hectic.
He knew that if he wanted to return to school, he’d have to find a program that could meet his specific needs.
Luckily, he found WGU.
“WGU really allowed me to fit my schooling into my life and make it work,” he says.
Jeff went on to get a Master of Science in Nursing –Education from WGU.
“I learned a lot of things going to school, even though I already had years of experience going into the program,” he says.
Jeff’s courses helped him recognize how the nursing profession as a whole worked and how it operated in the larger healthcare picture. This helped him in his own company as he implemented things he learned into his business.
Jeff still encourages other nurses to pursue their education, get involved in professional programs, and be the best they can be for the industry.
“If we don’t seek the education, then I’m not sure we’re putting our professional foot forward,” he says.
As for his future? Jeff says right now, the doors are open to any possibility. And he encourages other nurses to embrace possibilities as well.
“I encourage people to see outside the walls of their own life,” Jeff says. “There is a big world out there. Especially for nurses.”