Tiffany Kelley, MS/MBA'08, recognized a need for better tools to help nurses and improve patient care. She set out to fix that problem and founded Nightingale Apps, a health information technology company offering mobile applications aimed at improving safety and increasing efficiency for nurses delivering direct patient care in hospital settings. She is now developing the venture's initial product, Know My Patient. We asked Kelley to share her inspiration for her business and what she's learned along the way.

What made you start your business, and how did you get to where you are now?

My desire to start a business came from a need I saw while observing nurses providing direct patient care as part of my PhD program at Duke University. As a nurse myself, I saw how challenging it can be to provide the highest quality care to patients each day while working around inefficient systems. The observations were part of my research that focused on understanding how nurses use information to care for patients. I remember looking around thinking, “Nurses need a supportive tool to help facilitate the exchange of information needed to care for patients while on the go.” From that moment forward, I've been pursuing this vision to bring the Nightingale App, Know My Patient, to the hands of nurses in U.S. hospitals.

To get to this point, I've had to be very versatile. As Nightingale's founder, I am overseeing all aspects of the business. Coming up with the idea for the business was the easy part. Moving it from an idea to a business requires the ability to execute on multiple roles and responsibilities, no matter how small or large the task is. To do this requires versatility, as well as persistence and resilience. It goes without saying that you also need a strong work ethic and an ability to ride out the highs and lows that naturally come with each new business. An entrepreneurial path isn't for everyone, but I am enjoying the journey.

What were the biggest lessons you learned while trying to build your business?

I learn new lessons each day as I strive to move my original idea into a product that can make a positive impact on nurses and their patients. I think the biggest lesson I've learned is that you have to believe in what you are doing at the core. I start and end each day thinking about what I need to do to move the business forward. Other lessons I've learned are to trust my instincts and to celebrate the small wins. Finally, there is a large community of entrepreneurs and individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit in the Boston area—I encourage anyone with such an interest to take advantage of the existing ecosystem.

How has Northeastern helped you along the way?

Northeastern has had an instrumental influence on my career over the past 10 years. I started my first master's class in 2004 and completed my master of science in nursing administration and MBA in 2008. Yet, my involvement with Northeastern did not end following graduation. I've remained connected with the university, and the mentorship I've received from the amazing professors and affiliated nursing leaders in the Boston community continues to this day.

Recently, I've become connected with the entrepreneurial community fostered through Northeastern. Last year I learned about IDEA, Northeastern's venture accelerator, and two months later participated in the New Venture Bootcamp for alumni. In January 2014, Nightingale Apps became a Health Science Entrepreneurs' venture. These resources have helped us internally as a company, as well as externally in the Boston community. I am so grateful for the past and present mentorship I've received through Northeastern University.