International Nurses Day is celebrated worldwide on the day of Florence Nightingale’s birth — the pioneer of modern nursing. Led by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) on May 12th, the observance gives us a chance to honor the tireless work and dedication of nurses who go above and beyond to care for patients. But nursing is not only limited to the clinical setting. For this month’s Consultant Spotlight, we invite you to meet Barbara Doyle from our Charlotte office and read about her incredible journey from being a clinical practicing nurse to a consultant.
Tell me about your journey to becoming a nurse.
I’ve wanted to be a nurse since I was seven. At 13 years, I volunteered at a hospital, worked at a camp for emotionally and physically disabled children at 14, and finally worked as a nursing assistant in nursing homes at 15, continuing that throughout college. Having the inclination to get into nursing school, I spoke to a friend who suggested I look into the University of Pennsylvania, one of the best nursing schools at the time. I took the SAT and sent my scores to a few schools—including Penn. Thankfully, I got into Penn and never looked back!
On the first day of school, the university told us we were the “Future nurse leaders of the world” and “We could do anything we wanted with our career.” That stuck with me as I made my career choices, leading me to where I am today.
How did your career progress after becoming a nurse?
After nursing school, I spent two years as a staff nurse in an oncology unit. I wanted a few years of clinical experience before embarking on graduate school. While in graduate school, I was promoted to Assistant Nurse Manager, but I struggled to balance staff management, unit, and clinical activities. This challenge was the first time I recognized the need for a change in my career and decided to join the United States Peace Corps.
I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Gabon, Central Africa, from 1991 to 1993, teaching health in three different villages. This opportunity gave me time to gain a new perspective on how I wanted to approach my career. I went back to graduate school, took my old job as an Assistant Nurse Manager, and had better success the second time around.
From there, I worked as a Clinical Nurse Specialist for a few years after my Master’s, and when the opportunity arose, I earned a Nurse Practitioner certificate in Oncology. I helped start the allogeneic bone marrow transplantation program at the University of Pennsylvania with a physician colleague but soon realized I missed inpatient care. When I was asked to be the first inpatient nurse practitioner to manage a service of patients, I jumped at the opportunity — to this day, it remains something I am very proud of!
When did you decide to change your career from practicing nursing?
After being in clinical practice for almost 15 years, it was time to make a change. I was burnt out but also reluctant to leave a profession I had always wanted to be a part of. It took two years to make the decision to step away from clinical care, and during that time, I found I had a growing interest in healthcare software. Back then, electronic health records were just starting to roll out. They were clunky, and it didn’t seem like any healthcare professionals were involved in designing usability and workflows—I wanted to change that.
Knowing I was looking for a software-related job, a colleague shared a local newspaper ad for an Account Manager position at a healthcare quality outcomes software company. I knew I had the transferable skills and willingness to help customers coming out of clinical practice, much like I had been helping patients. I applied for the role and got the job!
I started as an Account Manager for their product and worked my way up to Product Manager. For the next 11 years, I worked with a team of developers and analysts to support customers, enhance the product, and develop new products for a national customer base of over 700 facilities. I learned a lot about healthcare data, quality reporting, and regulatory requirements, which I have continued to use throughout my career.
Having said this, being a nurse is still important to me. When my RN became inactive, I enrolled in a refresher class in 2019, finishing with clinicals on a telemetry unit in 2020. Having an active RN allowed me to volunteer as a camp nurse for adults with developmental disabilities last year, and I hope to find more volunteer nursing opportunities in the future.
Tell me about your transition into consulting.
The move to consulting was somewhat organic. After working on the product I managed for several years, I was ready for something new. I reached out to a colleague who was working for a healthcare technology consulting firm and started working there shortly after. I pushed my skills in this role, learning about the technical infrastructure for healthcare data and going deep into how to solve for regulatory requirements. The company was acquired after five years of my working there, and with that major change, my future felt uncertain. So, when I was tapped for an SME role for quality improvement and oncology, I knew it was the next logical move for me.
For the next five years, I supported a federal oncology program contract with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation and had the opportunity to visit participating oncology practices. It turned out to be a good move! But after five years, the oncology program ended, and the need for change began creeping in again. And that’s when SEI reached out to me.
The more I learned about SEI, the more it reminded me of the small health IT consulting company I was at earlier in my career, which was comforting. It was an easy transition for me to go to SEI because I love that small company feel. I’ve been with SEI for just over a year now, and I love the collaboration of our team in Charlotte and across the nation. Everyone is supportive, and I can get answers or suggestions whenever I have questions. It’s also exciting to stand up a new office, knowing our goal is to provide support within our community. I intend for SEI to be my last job, and when the “time for change” feeling comes on again, it will be for my retirement!
What advice do you have for people who want to jump into consulting but don’t have a consulting background?
Go for it! Be confident in your skill set. I was reminded early in my consulting career that we’re the experts. Otherwise, the client wouldn’t have hired us. So be secure and confident in the value you bring to your client. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and always strive to learn something new. I’m currently with a client that is not at all healthcare related, but I’m having fun learning. Lastly, take advantage of the collective value of your colleagues — we are all experts in our respective fields and can learn from each other.