February 22nd, 2012
By Jennifer Olin, BSN, RN
I first met Andrew Lopez, RN, when the Amanda Trujillo story broke out in Arizona. He was one of the first nurse bloggers to run with the story on Facebook and Twitter. In short order, a group of nurse-writers gathered together on line and adopted Trujillo’s fight as their own. I don’t think anyone in that group would disagree that Lopez is one of the ringleaders of this band of RNs out to right Trujillo’s wrong and hopefully bring some changes to nursing: how we see ourselves, how we are seen and how our professional organizations represent and stand up for us.
Andrew, you have been so passionate about Amanda’s case since the first minute anyone heard about it, and you continue to stay at the forefront of the effort to help her…why is this so important to you?
”With Amanda, I continue to help because I'm in a position where I can. Am I a ringleader because I'm around, because I contribute my time, efforts? If that qualifies me, then yes, I'll accept the role.
”Amanda is in a difficult spot. She is there because she advocated for a patient and the doctor didn't like it. He decided to destroy her career, he was so upset. Her employer, Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center went right along with it. They even filed the charges with the Arizona State Board of Nursing, as the doctor requested. Amanda, for the first ten months of her ordeal, had no support.
”Her situation is wrong on so many levels. It is something I've seen repeatedly in my Nursing career and often felt powerless to do anything about. It is empowering to be able to act on Amanda's behalf and have a group of like-minded nurses with the same mission. Together we can do some serious damage to the powers that be. It is almost worth the risks that we each take by getting involved.
”Since we received her initial call for help, we've had a consistent stream of dedicated, enthusiastic and supportive nurses willing to help. It is a very good feeling to be fighting for something you believe in. It is one thing to "Save the Whales" it is another to fight a war that can significantly improve not just one nurse’s life, but hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands.”
We’ve established you are a revolutionary, rabble-rouser and ringleader….how did you get here? Tell me about becoming a nurse.
”From the beginning I was attracted to the health sciences. I liked biology, psychology, wanted to be in a helping profession. Went to school to be a laboratory technician, got a four-year degree in it. While doing clinicals I found my favorite part of the day was the patient contact I had at 5 a.m. every day drawing labs. While I was doing phlebotomy, got to see and talk to the nurses on the floors. I saw what they were doing and caught the nursing bug.
”Nursing school was two years including pre-requisites. The hospital where I was working had a school of nursing on site. I could work, go to school, and live in the dorms, it was perfect for me. I signed up for an accelerated program using my laboratory degree credits and was a nurse inside of two years. I’ve been a nurse for 14 years now.”
When you graduated from nursing school did you know what area or specialty interested you?
”It was 1997, HMOs were squeezing hospitals for costs, and was having a hard time finding a job in New Jersey as a new grad. I relocated to Laredo, Texas for my first nursing job. I worked in med/surg telemetry for the first 14 months of my career, got homesick, got a non-nursing job offer, and left for New Jersey.
”I worked for a malpractice insurance company or a little over a year, reviewing cases, getting a birds eye view. Soon after realized I needed to get back to staff nursing. I went into homecare for almost two years. I enjoyed going to work in people's homes, getting to know them. Did not enjoy the excessive documentation and paperwork that went with homecare. Most of my work was visits versus shifts; travel and pay got to be an issue. I decided to go agency to do 8-12 hour shifts in hospitals and nursing homes.
I did a bit of everything: telemetry, med/surg, respiratory, and ortho in the hospital. I did find it difficult going from place to place. I was splitting shifts in between floors; learning my way around. It was typical for me to come in at 3 p.m., work till 7 p.m., then give report to work 7-11 on a different floor. That got to be too much. Decided to move into Rehab, LTC where it was more predictable, slightly slower paced.
” In 2001, my daughter Autumn was born. My wife (also a nurse) worked full-time 3 12s a week, so we decided that I would work around her schedule so childcare would not be an issue. “
Andrew, I know you are the proprietor of a very handy nursing reference website. Tell me about the genesis of Nursefriendly.com.
”As a student, I became involved in the National Student Nurses Association. I had contacted the outgoing editor of their newsletter and mentioned I had published newsletters before. Next thing I knew, I had a 14,000 dollar budget for the New Jersey Student Nurses Association Pulsebeat publication.
”I was asked to build a website for them also, learned how to do that, and started researching the web for healthcare information. We were encouraged by our nursing instructors to find supplemental resources, and I figured there had to be plenty online. I was in for a rude awakening. I was spending hours and hours looking for very specific disease topics and getting lost, frustrated, and disappointed. I thought to myself there had to be a better way. I decided to put my own website up, (lopez1.com) and start organizing, collecting resources to make them easier to find.
”My website took on a life of its own, started getting traffic from the search engines, advertisers started offering me money to have their ads on my site and it grew from there.
”I should mention as a student nurse, was exposed to Laura Gasparis Vonfrolio, who published the Nursing Journal "Revolution." She both inspired and awed me. Caught the entrepreneur bug from her and it has persisted to this day.
”I set up a corporation, named it Nursefriendly, Inc. and my site is www. Nursefriendly.com.”
And that’s where we are now?
”Since then, a decade now, I have been a part-time stay at home dad, part-time nurse-entrepreneur, part-time bedside nurse in sub-acute rehab (my favorite) and LTC. Seen it all: hips, knees, laminectomies, and all types of surgical aftercare. At the same time, I see a lot of long term care patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, pneumonia, and end stage renal disease—lots of patients for hospice.
”I have had two in-laws die on hospice, comfort care. I am very comfortable having code status discussions with patients, families, doctors. I have given the last dose of morphine on more occasions than I care to remember.”
”The Nursefriendly National Directories are a labor of love. It was nice when money started to come in. There is always more to learn in nursing and healthcare. I don't see an end coming to Nursefriendly. I decided I'd keep adding and adding to it for as long as I could. Along the way I’ve met other nurse entrepreneurs, decided to help them get started on the internet via NursingEntrepreneurs.com I ask them to fill out a detailed survey profile that I post to my site by state, category of business, and other questions in the profile. It is a win-win situation. Our site has a steady stream of new nurse entrepreneurs to showcase to our audience and they enjoy and benefit of being showcased.”
What do you see Nursefriendly evolving into?
”I see more of the same. Expanding nursing resources, covering as many disease processes, drugs, medical specialties as resources allow.
”I want Nursefriendly to be one of the "go to" sites in healthcare. Where, if you need it, you can come here and find it quickly, painlessly, with a minimum of frustration.
”Would I like to make enough money to live off the Nursefriendly? Sure, every dollar in advertising helps. However, I'm not in it for the money. That is not why I put the website up. If I aggressively pursued advertisers, sponsorships—we could bring in substantially more. I'm more comfortable earning passive income through our chief advertising agency, Google AdSense. I place the code on my site where I want the ads to appear, they choose what ads, bill, collect, and send me my share. It lets me focus on what I like to do, build and improve my website for my visitors.
”One of the reasons I'm probably not rich by now, is that I've put my family first, before the website, for a very long time. When my daughter asks me to come play, I go more often than not. It is very important to me to be there for birthdays, teacher conferences, and dance classes. She is only going to be young once. She is 10 years old now. It’s just a matter of time before she becomes a teenager and is no longer interested in spending time with her parents. My wife Melanie enjoys going out to eat, seeing movies, traveling. She and my daughter will always be my number one priority before work or business.”