Communities and entrepreneurs are taking the LEAP! with SFU

Maryanne Smith, a nurse practitioner in Sechelt, has opened B.C.’s first private nurse-practitioner clinic.

She made the leap from employee to entrepreneur last year after completing SFU’s eight-week Local Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program (LEAP!) for new social entrepreneurs in rural B.C.

LEAP! partners with local organizations to prepare small groups of entrepreneurs to launch businesses in their communities.

LEAP! was first piloted by SFU’s Community Economic Developmentprogram in 2013 - one of our SFU Innovates programs. To date, 77 per cent of LEAP! participants have indicated they plan to start a business and 28 businesses are operating in the market.

Smith’s clinic is among them. She joined LEAP! last year to explore how she could develop a business idea that would improve her lifestyle as well as health services on the Sunshine Coast. At the time, she was making an expensive and lengthy commute from her home in Sechelt to Vancouver where she worked for a healthcare service provider.

After completing LEAP! she launched Health Access NP, a fee-for-service nurse-practitioner clinic in Sechelt offering primary care for people wishing to avoid long wait times or without a family physician. Since establishing the clinic, she has taken further training to offer specialized foot and wound care.

“For many elderly patients, coming to the clinic, or having me come to their houses, means they have much more timely care, without the expense and stress of travel,” says Smith. “I can provide advanced procedures and work directly with their family doctors to keep them mobile.”

Health Access NP is thriving, providing primary healthcare and medical foot care to more than 100 regular clients in her clinic or through house and community visits. She also has a contract with Vancouver Coastal Health.

Starting her own practice has had a huge impact on Smith’s life. She has control over her employment and a plan for her future. She has meaningful work in her field, without having to travel out of the community, and she has a means to supplement her income after retirement.

Smith’s goal is to continue to grow and improve her practice. In the future, she would like to be able to offer nurse practitioners a practicum so they can learn how to set up practices of their own.

Written by SFU's Anna Kemp.