A Leap of Faith: How One Nurse Turned An Idea Into a Business

While working as a nurse in the Emergency Department (ED) at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center in Lafayette, La., Marianne Bourgeois had an idea. It proved to be the beginning of an entirely new career. Today Marianne is president of Apex Innovations, the company she founded that produces highly successful educational tools and online courses for healthcare professionals.

Marianne worked as a staff nurse and charge nurse and then as the nurse educator in the ED for more than 25 years. One day, she realized that a computer-generated, 12-lead ECG interpretation is not foolproof. Her patient was actually experiencing a myocardial infarction but had an ECG that appeared to her to be normal. Recognizing that, as a nurse, she had not been fully trained to interpret ECGs, Marianne fashioned a quick reference tool using a Sharpie pen and a sheet protector to help her assess an ECG for an ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI).

In 2003, Marianne took her invention to the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) Conference. She sold more than 400 of them in 10 hours. Eventually, the sheet protector evolved into MI Rule Visions®, a reference and teaching tool that is just one of a growing number of tools and online learning programs that Apex Innovations offers. The company’s online educational programs are used by more than 175,000 healthcare professionals in 22 countries worldwide.

Some people at the AACN conference had asked if she had education to accompany the tool. As Marianne explains, “We didn’t have anything at that time, but a friend of mine told me that the correct answer should always be ‘Yes,’ so we got to work creating some.”

A Business is Born

Marianne founded Apex Innovations a short time later. The company started out small at first, based in Marianne’s home. Giving up a steady paycheck was difficult for Marianne, but she believed in what she was doing. “Every day is a leap of faith,” she says. “But knowing that we’re helping nurses, physicians, medics, and others to become more knowledgeable and give better patient care keeps me moving forward.”

The result has been a collection of web-based, interactive programs that educate and test healthcare providers in vascular competencies. The programs feature 3D graphics and “intelligent interactivity®”— a term coined and trademarked by the company to describe the interactive learning featured in these courses.

“What is different about our programs is that the learner interacts with the content,” Marianne explains. “We know that you learn better when you see, hear, and do.”

Apex Innovations holds intellectual property rights on 27 online courses. Some of the company’s products include the imPULSE® and imPULSE 2.0™ ECG and Chest Pain Competency Series, the Hemispheres® Stroke Competency Series, the Canadian Hemispheres Stroke Competency Series, and the Responder® STEMI Recognition program. Apex Innovations provides the only programs in the U.S. that meet the annual educational requirements for accreditation by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care (formerly the Society of Chest Pain Centers) and is the only privately held company holding an agreement with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to distribute NIH stroke scale training and certification.

Passion, Determination, and Discipline

Key to being a successful entrepreneur in Marianne’s opinion is being able to recognize a need and having a passion for making things better. It takes determination and discipline and, for Marianne, a solid grounding in integrity. “I see what’s available out there and I know I can do better,” she says.

Although Marianne never dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur, she believes that things happen for a reason. She credits her experience in the ED for laying a foundation that prepared her to succeed on her own. “As an ED nurse, I learned to multi-task,” she says. “Being able to manage multiple priorities helped prepare me to make wise decisions and juggle the demands associated with a rapidly changing technology and healthcare business.”

Marianne freely admits that her chosen path is not always glamorous or without challenges, but it has offered many opportunities to meet fascinating people, to travel, and to make a difference. Being surrounded by such talented coworkers inspires her to be a strong and successful leader.

Marianne’s motto is to keep the faith and keep moving forward, a work style that she models every day. She is working on a new venture—a simulation project— and has just finished a major makeover of the imPULSE® ECG Competency Series that features new graphics and content. The newest version, imPULSE 2.0™, went live on January 2, 2013.

Learn more about the Apex Innovations courses mentioned in this article, as well as other eLearning courses offered by Elsevier’s Mosby’s Suite.

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