What makes a nurse want to shift into medical device sales? Kelly Allan practically got called into the role, but she does have a lot of wisdom to share with nurses who are thinking about making a similar shift. In particular, Kelly believes that nurses already possess essential skillsets that are going to put them in an advantageous position should they take up a sales role. In this first episode of a two-part interview with Samuel Gbadebo, Kelly shares how she was introduced into the medical device space, what her role as a neuromodulation clinical specialist entails, and what nurses need to think about if they want to give medical sales a shot. If you’re a nurse listening to this, you’re going to be surprised that a lot of things you’re doing now need not change at all!
We have with us another special guest that I can’t wait to talk about. Before I get into any of that, I want to address something head-on. This show was created to create a very large community for people in the medical sales space. As I always say, medical sales, meaning everything that medical and selling encompasses: pharmaceutical, medical device, molecular, genetic, biotech, you name it. It’s designed to be a place where leaders can meet other leaders, jobs seekers can meet hiring managers, hiring managers can meet other sales reps, sales reps can meet other sales reps. Sales reps can meet other leaders, and executives can meet other executives. This community where everyone can learn about everyone else, and learn what they’re doing and what their career tracks look like, what their leadership models look like, what they’re doing that’s bringing all the value to this field for the providers and patients that are out there.
In that community, a lot of things happen. This is where my business comes into play because what we do is work with sales teams, medical device companies, pharmaceutical companies, individuals, and we also help job seekers get into space, and people within medical sales to transition into other rules. We get the opportunity to understand what it’s like to go from one career track to another career track. Now, we get the opportunity to sit with a nurse. That’s going to get into what it looks like to go from nursing to medical device sales. This is great because at least a couple of times a month or maybe every other week, I’ll have a call with a number of nurses that want to get into the industry. They have many questions about, “What is it like? What can I expect? What should I be going for? How do I even make it happen?”
To have someone that’s going to sit with us and to get into the reality of that is a very exciting thing. Her name is Kelly Allan, and she’s a Clinical Specialist in the Neuromodulation space. She’s going to talk about what nurses need to be thinking about if they’re thinking about making that transition into medical devices. She’s going to be talking about what skillsets nurses already possess that will make them effective in that role. She’s also going to get into what her day looks like. Following the tradition of 2021, this is another two-part interview. You’re going to need to show up to get good information, especially if you’re a nurse and thought about this. You’re going to need to show up in the next episode to get the follow-up through and understand what you might be getting yourself into. Without further ado, thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy this interview.
I’m going to let you introduce yourself. Why don’t you tell us where you’re from and who you are?
My name is Kelly Allan. I live in Boston, Massachusetts. I work as a Clinical Specialist in Neuromodulation.
For those audience and members that might not know, what exactly is neuromodulation? What are you doing in that field
Neuromodulation is an umbrella term for many different therapies, but it is a way to modulate pain, to use electrical pulses, to give the brain a different message, so patients feel less pain.
What’s the typical schedule look like for someone like yourself in neuromodulation?
It could be something different every day. The schedule is you could be starting your day at 6:30 AM ending at 7:00 PM or later. You could start your day at 10:00 AM and end at 2:00 PM. It depends on the day and how you use your time.
Would you say that you can decide your own schedule, or are you at the beck and call of what happens in your territory?
It’s more of a beck and call of your territory. Sometimes you have some control over your schedule, but it depends on operating room times, patient appointments, when customers need assistance or quotes or anything needed. You are serving the territory and you are available most of the day.Talk to your peers, supervisors, anybody you know about what you’re interested in, and they’ll think of you at the right time. Click To Tweet
Does it take your nights and weekends as well?
Not in the nights. With neuromodulation, it’s elective. It’s not like a pacemaker. You’re not on-call, but depending on who you work for, you’re not on call in the nighttime. I usually stop taking calls anywhere between 5:00 and 7:00. I do check my voicemail. If it’s urgent, I’ll answer it, but if not, I wait until the next business day. On the weekends, I’m not working, but there’s an asterisk there because we do something called trial evaluations. You might have to call patients over the weekend as well. I don’t think it has taken too much of my time. I’ve put it into my lifestyle, so I’m used to it, and I feel like I don’t work on the weekends, even when I am following these patients.
Tell us a little bit more about the trial evaluations.
A trial evaluation period of a patient is able to have a quick day procedure. They have the electrodes placed temporarily for about seven days, more or less. They come back to the office on day seven and discuss with the doctor how well it helped them. Whether they did well or not, it is removed, but if they did well, then they can talk about having it implanted.
We all want to know how you got into this. What brought you to neuromodulation? Take us back to college because there’s something that I want the audience to know. I’m not going to spill the beans, but you have an interesting career track. Let us know what you did going in and out of college, and how you finally got to Abbott.
I went to school for Nursing at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island. I started my career as a nurse. I worked in a couple of different areas of nursing. I did work on a dementia unit, in long-term care, inpatient on a cardiac unit, and then in critical care in the ER. I had a preceptor who I looked up to so much, and she left to work at a surgery center. She talks a lot like I do, so she gets to know people. We met, who is my manager, she was asking her a bunch of questions. I’m watching her program stimulator like, “What’s this? What’s that? What’s the plus? What’s the minus? What are you doing?” She’s like, “You seem interested in this. Do you want to work for us?”
She talked about the career, “I’m trying to start a family. I’m interested, but I know a girl.” She gave her my number and then she gave that manager’s number to me. We set up for coffee. I met her and another girl on this team on a Saturday at Panera. I did my homework. I didn’t know much about neuromodulation, except when I did an MRI checklist in the ER. “Do you have a stimulator?” was on the checklist. That’s all I knew. I went in, asked questions. They asked me what I knew about it and they were interested. I went through the interview process. They liked me and then I was able to transition from a nurse to a medical device clinical specialist.
It sounds like you were invited to become a specialist as opposed to you were a nurse that looked for the opportunity.
I put out there to people that I knew like, “I’m interested in medical devices. It seems like a cool career. You could dress up, get to work with doctors still.” Nurses are used to working with doctors, and it seems like the schedule are so much easier. You don’t have to work 3 twelves overnight. You don’t have to work weekends. I was interested. My friends knew that and my preceptor had known that. People knowing I was interested, they thought of me when an opportunity came up. I’m pro, “Talk about what you want. Talk to your peers, supervisors, anybody you know about what you’re interested in, and they’ll think of you at the right time.”
I talked to a lot of nurses that want to get into the industry, because we have a program where we help people get into the industry. Talk to us about the differences between what you anticipated being a sales rep would be like and what being a sales rep is like having been a nurse?
Having anatomy physiology was helpful. When I did the neuroanatomy training, I was like, “I know this. This is great.” When you’re in the medical device field, you’re not acting as a nurse. Your role is not a nurse. You have to take your nursing hat off and put it on whether you’re a sales rep or if you’re a clinical specialist. It’s a new role, and you have to start from the ground up. It’s not easy because you’re used to being part of the care team. You have input, not always but the doctor usually listen to you. As a nurse, it’s different. You’re doing IVs, getting blood, making assessments, writing notes, documentation is huge.
When you go into the medical device, you’re no longer in direct contact. You’re not touching the patient anymore. If you have an assessment, you’re not having that conversation with the doctor. In the OR, as a clinical specialist or a medical device rep, the things you would normally say as a nurse, you’re biting your tongue. It’s hard. For the nurses that have been nurses for a while, you’re well-known in your career, you’ve developed many skills, and then you can’t even use those skills anymore. You end up feeling like a fly on the wall. It’s almost like, “I went to school as a nurse and learned all these skills. I’m not even using them.” I’ll give you an example. I watched the nurses put the IVs in. I’m a few years out of nursing. I feel like I still could put in an IV. I was good at it. I want it to be like, “Let me do it if you can’t do that.” You have to watch them do their thing.Medical device sales is, across the board, all about building relationships. Click To Tweet
Would you say that even played into when you were in the middle of a procedure, you’d see something that maybe even the doctor did, and because of your experience, you knew better? How do you manage it?
Even a recommendation for a type of dressing or a medication. Now that I’ve been here for many years and I have built relationships, the only thing I’m recommending is maybe the dressing. I’ll say, “Maybe you should think about this,” but I’m still not recommending medications. I’m not recommending which vein they’re using for the procedure for their IV. Even in anesthesia, you work physically close to anesthesia for when you’re in the OR, you’ll see vitals changing and you want to give your input, especially as critical care and you’re like, “Have you thought about this and that?”
What’s it like for the doctors? How did they receive you once they learn that you’ve been a nurse?
I wish I had a conversation with the doctor more in-depth about this before you ask me because unless you worked with that doctor before, I don’t think it matters. When it comes to working with patients, they might think, “You have a patient experience,” which is a very good thing to have patient experience in this field to talk to a patient, how to have awareness around a patient, what you do say, what you don’t say, how you update a doctor, but it is about building relationships. If a doctor doesn’t know you, he doesn’t trust you yet. You have to spend time, wait for time to pass, spend more time, show up, be consistent, and then they’ll trust you. I would love to hear what another nurse in medical device thinks, but you could come from any background and almost get the same treatment, unless it matters to a doctor, but across the board, it’s about building the relationship.
Besides the anatomy, understanding the body, and maybe a little bit more insight into how these procedures work, is there any other advantage you feel you have over someone that hasn’t been a nurse that goes into a role like what you’re doing?
Besides anatomy, and I touched on this a little bit, but being able to talk to a patient. With neuromodulation, you don’t have direct contact with a patient, and that’s speaking on IVs and medication, but you do have to connect to their stimulator, whether you’re using a programmer or a magnet, you may have to touch them. Having that patient experience and awareness, someone who has nursing experience will say to the patient, “I’m going to touch your back here. Is that okay?” Someone who maybe doesn’t have a nursing background might not know to tell the patient, “I’m going to touch you here.” Having that type of awareness and bedside manner.
Not only do you have the background of a nurse, and you’re doing what you’re doing as a clinical specialist, you are also a field trainer. You get to teach other people how to do this role more effectively. How has being a nurse played into that, and what’s your training with these new reps?
When I was a nurse, I wanted to be a nurse preceptor. I wanted to teach new nurses how to work in the ER. I did start to get my feet wet in that and started to train people before I came here. When I came here, I said, “That’s what I want to do. When I get into medical devices, I want to do something that requires teaching.” In nursing, you have to write care plans, follow patients, have a diagnosis, and a plan on how to improve that patient based on that diagnosis. It’s a lot of organization, planning, and understanding the person like a patient. Every patient is individual. Every patient might have a little bit of a different plan. When I train people, it’s not the same every time. I get to know the person. I get to know what their diagnoses are, where they need help, and I come up with a plan.
How does that play out when you get to see people out pre-operate after you’ve trained them?
I love it. I love seeing people come in and have some gaps in either knowledge or confidence or covering a case, have a pack of bag. What equipment are you bringing? Because you can’t forget anything. It’s cool to see people struggle or lack confidence, and then get to a point where they are covering a case on their own, or they are seeing a patient by themselves, and I’m not in a room with them. That’s cool to see.
For all the nurses reading, give us in the best light you can, if a nurse is considering getting into the field, what do they need to consider? I’m sure nurses make a lot of assumptions about what the lifestyle is going to be like, that you now have the reality on. Go ahead, side by side, nurse to rep, what needs to be considered? What needs to be not assumed?
That was part one with Kelly Allan, Clinical Specialist in the Neuromodulation space, pretty insightful. Kelly got in an interesting way. A lot of nurses I’ve talked to, and ones that want to get in don’t get in the way Kelly got in, but Kelly got in an interesting way. She got to explore an opportunity and took full advantage of it. One thing that she talked about that I hear all the time is about nurses in a device role that overstep their boundaries because of what their experience was as a nurse. Kelly put it out there that it’s hard not to do so, especially when you see something that you know and believe you can correct. As a sales rep or a clinical specialist, and you being the representation of whichever employer, you have to mind your Ps and Qs, and you can’t do anything to even make it seem like you’re undermining the provider or the staff.
It’s imperative that anyone who thinks about getting into this space can exercise the discipline to make sure they’re not overstepping their boundaries. This is a complaint that I hear on a regular basis that nurses that have become reps, sometimes make the mistake of doing. She also got into the bedside manner and how helpful it is to have such a strong bedside manner acumen that helps as clinical specialists communicate with patients. She even made the distinction that when it comes to someone that doesn’t have that type of background, sometimes they fall short on effectively communicating with the patient. It can go a long way. I’m not going to say too much more about the interview because you’re going to need to turn in the next episode for part two to read about the rest of what Kelly has to say regarding what the day-to-day looks like.
What I do want to address and challenge any nurses reading this episode, think about why you want to make the transition. What is it that you’re after? When Kelly gets into some of these things, there are a lot of similarities to what you’re already doing that you’re not going to stop doing. One thing I want you to think about is why do you want to get into medical devices or into any other medical sales? That’s the first thing. Why do you want to do it? What advantages do you think you’re going to have? I’ll take it one step further. What don’t you like about what’s happening in your nursing career? I don’t mean the general complaint. We’ve all had a very tough time, and I can only imagine the incredible challenge it’s been for nurses and doctors. If you were to go back to any level of normalcy and you thought about your role as a nurse, what is it specifically that you want to change that’s even having you entertain a position in medical sales?
Thank you for reading. Please come back next episode so you can get the real low down on what the transition looks like from Kelly Allan when it comes to going from nursing into medical sales. For those of you that are thinking about getting into space, or you’re in the space and you want to make a transition within the space, you want to go from pharmaceutical to medical device or medical device to genetics or genetics to biotech, if you’re that person and you’re thinking about, “I want to make that transition. I want to do it well. I want to do it as soon as I can. What resource can I go to? Where can I get some help? Where can I learn how to get it done?” Maybe you’ve been trying to do it, and it’s not happening. You need to make sure you visit EvolveYourSuccess.com and select Attain A Medical Sales Role. You can see me at LinkedIn, Samuel Adeyinka. Reach out, send a text or a direct message. Let me know that you’re interested and we’ll connect you to one of our client specialists. We’ll get you on the path that you know you should be on. As always, I appreciate everyone that reads the show. I hope you come for another episode.
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