One of the strategies that I use is quiet reflection. For instance, if I know I am going into a stressful deposition, I take some time to prepare and fortify myself mentally. I remind myself to consider the questions thoughtfully and to remember that it is not about me.
As a part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High Pressure Moments”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tina Marie Baxter, nurse practitioner and legal nurse consultant.
Tina M. Baxter is an advanced practice registered nurse and a board certified gerontological nurse practitioner through the American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC), who resides in Anderson, Indiana. Mrs. Baxter has been a registered nurse for over twenty years and a nurse practitioner for 14 years. She is the owner of Baxter Professional Services, LLC, a consulting firm which provides legal nurse consulting services, wellness and chronic disease management coaching, and customized educational resources to healthcare organizations. Mrs. Baxter teaches stress management strategies to clients of all ages and offers virtual as well as online classes. She is listed as best lessons for 2019 and 2020 from Lessons.com. She is a previous owner of HIS Solutions Healthcare, LLC which provided a community Certified Nursing Assistant course, Home Health Aide training course, and a Qualified Medication Aide training for which she served as the program director and chief operating officer. She was employed at American Health Network in Muncie, Indiana as a nurse practitioner where she served six different skilled care and assisted living facilities. She is currently working at Adult and Child Health in Indianapolis, focusing on the mental health needs of adults and geriatric patients. In addition to being an accomplished clinician, Mrs. Baxter is an entrepreneur, public speaker and expert witness. She serves her community on numerous boards and charitable organizations.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I am originally from Toledo, Ohio. I attended Jesup W. Scott High (Go Bulldogs!) and I have always had an interest in science and music. My parents made sure I had the opportunity to be exposed to different things. One of my favorite memories was the Christmas I received my first microscope and chemistry set. I used them to set up my own research laboratory in a room off of my bedroom. That is, until I almost set the house on fire with mixing some rather energetic chemicals in an experiment and then I was relegated to the basement. My parents took me and my sister to the theatre, symphony, concerts, cultural exhibits, the zoo, you name it. We were encouraged to explore. The art museum was not too far from our home and our cousin used to work there so on the days that admission to the museum was free, we were allowed to walk to the museum after school. My sister and I used to like to see the mummy exhibit.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.
I started out as a business leader by taking my first supervisor job as a nurse. I had some really great mentors at the hospital. I remember as a new supervisor, the VP of the hospital lobbied and made sure I got to the leadership conference in Detroit. She and I flew together because she did not want to drive. I got to tag along and was exposed to other leaders in the business. I also got to party with a group of nuns and no one parties like nuns. The hospital provided great training in leadership. I really learned a lot working there in that capacity. When I finished my master’s degree, I left that hospital to take another clinical position in education and as a nurse practitioner.
I didn’t start out to be an entrepreneur. I actually just wanted to lease some space from a friend to write a book when I was in between jobs. I was working on a fiction novel (which is on the back burner right now). I had not really thought about starting a business. She talked me into going into business with her and I realized then that I liked the idea of building a business from the ground up. It was very thrilling to launch our first business. That entrepreneurial spirit stuck and the more I learned about business development, the more I wanted to grow and venture into new territory.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
I would say that there have been some phenomenal women in my life that have been of great encouragement. First off, I would have to say my mother, Pat Washington. She was and is a professional in everything that she does. My mom worked in public relations and when she had an event, my sister and I would tag alone and volunteer. I think watching my mom, who worked in radio and television at the time, mingle with business people and celebrities was influential on me. She just seemed to have it all put together and could be at ease with anyone. She is now working as an evangelist in a variety of ministries at the age of 72, so she keeps on going. I can’t leave out my dad who also inspired me. He would make sure I could read at a young age. Other kids just played during summer vacation. I also attended “Daddy School” and he taught us to read using phonics before it was popular.
Two other mentors have been nurses that encouraged me when I was a student nurse and throughout my early nursing career. Mrs. Matilda Baber and Mrs. Mae Gray, two trailblazers in their own right. Mrs. Barber was the Vice President of Mission and she was instrumental in starting the church health stations in local churches to reduce the health disparities in minority populations. We would take blood pressures and incentive spirometer measurements to improve high blood pressure and asthma outcomes. The program is still running to this day. Mrs. Gray was a nursing supervisor at the hospital and she helped me get a job as a Student Nurse Tech on the med-surg unit. I will forever be grateful for the leadership and kindness shown to me by these great women.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I have a story from a few weeks ago. Due to COVID, all of our events have moved online so I am doing a lot of Zoom presentations. I had a presentation set up with over 20 people in it. I was all excited, ready to go and went to my Zoom calendar to start the meeting. I somehow clicked on the wrong meeting in the list and didn’t realize it until the end. I thought no one showed up in the meeting and my assistant did not catch it either. We thought, oh well, let’s go through it and use it as a practice run. At the end, when the recording saved, I realized my error. I quickly sent an email to the participates citing technical difficulties and rescheduled for the following week. I have learned my lesson. Double check your Zoom link.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
I would say first, surround yourself with encouraging people. Stay away from negative influences if you can. Focus on your goals. Have fun along the way but the keep the end goal in mind. It is when we stop focusing on where we went to go, that we often veer off into paths that take away from our intended destination.
Secondly, don’t be afraid to fail. It happens to all of us and you can learn more in your failures sometimes than in your successes. I learned to make sure I am in the right Zoom meeting.
Lastly, keep learning. Personal development is critical to success. Just because I have a graduate degree does not mean I am done learning. Investing in yourself is the best investment there is and will give you a great return. I will give an example. Years ago, because I am a big nerd and not afraid to admit it, in high school, I ran out of classes to take to have a full schedule. I had enough credits to graduate early but I liked school and didn’t want to miss out on the activities. I decided to take a class in broadcasting. Yes, I was a radio DJ in high school and college with my own show. I had an FCC license and everything. I learned about speaking in a mike, talking on air and about timing etc. So let’s fast forward to now. It has been several years since I have been in broadcasting but I am using some of the skills to launch my new podcast, The Nurse Shark. You never know when a skill you acquired years ago may become of use to you in the future. Don’t be afraid to learn new things.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I am a prolific reader. I have read so many books by great authors, Napoleon Hill, John Maxwell,
Stephen Covey, James Altucher, Joyce Meyer, and more. I would say one book that helped me to launch my current business was “The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth” by James Altucher. As a nurse, you are often putting other’s needs ahead of your own. It was refreshing to have someone say it is okay to choose yourself and ultimately, the people in your life would be better off for it, because you will be better. It goes back to the instructions that flight attendants give you about putting your own oxygen mask on first before you assist others. Choosing yourself is not selfish. It was a lesson I had to learn.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
I remember in the 7th grade in junior high on the band practice room wall was sign our band director had up for us to read on the first day. I have never forgotten it and use it to this day, “Everybody makes makes mistakes.” I would remember that when my fingers would flub and hit a wrong note and even now when I get on the wrong Zoom call. It helps me to realize that we are human and therefore fallible. I have learned to not only extend a little grace to others but also to myself. We can be our own biggest critic.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I am launching a podcast to help nurses who want to learn about starting their own business or expanding their business. That is what The Nurse Shark is all about. All things nursing and all things business. I am having my website rebuilt in anticipation of hosting my podcast. I am so excited about that. I am also working on a book for nurses to encourage them to explore their inner hero and go on their epic journey to discover their unique nursing “power” or “gift.” I am hoping to have the podcast launched before the end of the year and book one of the series in the beginning of the new year.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?
One of the strategies that I use is quiet reflection. For instance, if I know I am going into a stressful deposition, I take some time to prepare and fortify myself mentally. I remind myself to consider the questions thoughtfully and to remember that it is not about me. I try not take the criticisms to heart. Often, a tactic used by the attorney is to try and get the expert rattled so he or she can prove a point and the expert contradicts the opionion. I remind myself that it is not about me personally. The attorney is trying to do the best for his or her client. I am there to be neutral in that I render my opinion based on the evidence in the record and not my personal feelings.
Another strategy I use when I am about to speak or present a training, I use music to pump myself up. I may choose an upbeat song to play before I go on stage or sometimes I tell myself to channel my inner Beyoncé and be fierce. It helps me to get over the jitters and get excited about the topic or focus of the talk. I want to bring in the enthusiasm and energy to every presentation. It is easy to get tired when you are going from venue to venue after speaking 8 hours so I use that as way to connect with the audience. If I am excited, they will be excited.
A third strategy I use is distraction. If I am starting to feel the tension from too many deadlines, phone calls, meetings, and so forth, I deliberately do something to distract me. I need something to take me away from all that so I can get perspective. Sometimes it going on a drive in the country, watching a funny movie, or talking to my great nephews and nieces on the phone. Little kids are generally the least stressed out people in the world and they are not afraid to be silly. I get to be silly with them. It helps me to put what stressor or problem into perspective and I can often come up with the solution after some time away from thinking about it.
Aside from being able to deal with the burden of stress, can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?
If I know I am going to have a high stress day, I try to go to bed earlier to get some extra sleep. I also make sure I eat a good breakfast. Nothing is worse than facing a stressful day and being tired and hangry. I also will dance. Yes, believe it or not, when I am facing a stressful day, I will get up, play some music and dance to get my body moving. It works. You don’t have to dance well. Just do it. Give it a go.
Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques, meditations or visualizations to help optimize yourself? If you do, we’d love to hear about it.
When I’m feeling stressed, I will do a few deep breathing exercises with some body scanning to pinpoint the areas of my body where I am feeling tension. I may do a progressive muscle relaxation exercise and some yoga to release the stress and slow my breathing. I teach these techniques to my wellness clients.
I meditate on being thankful and counting my blessings as they say. I reflect on where I have been and how far I have come. I then project myself into the future by visualizing the outcome I want to see. I think about how it will feel to walk across the stage and hear the applause of the audience, knowing that I have really connected and encouraged someone. I focus on how great it feels to see that I truly helped clients better their lives and see them happy and smiling.
Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?
When I really need to focus, let’s say, I have a large number of medical records to review, I will schedule a time on my calendar for the review and block my time. I may put on some soft music, usually classical or opera, plug in my aromatherapy diffuser, and start systematically reviewing the documents. I make sure that I put my phones away, turn off the ringers, and focus for that period of time. I put this time block as an appointment on my calendar so that I won’t schedule over it. If I don’t block it, I may never get around to doing it because there are many competing projects for my attention.
We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
I make it a habit to read books and engage in personal development. It is something I have always done. I remember one summer I was interested in the Incas, as a culture and civilization. I was in high school at the time. I went to the library that summer, read about the culture and wrote a report on it for myself. I find it easier to remember things when I write them out and summarize ideas. Later that year, in a history class, we had to turn in a report about ancient cultures so I choose the Incas and submitted the report I had written that previous summer. It was then that I discovered the concept of work smarter and not harder.
I like to listen to podcasts, TED talks, and audio books to learn new things. It is not just on topics in nursing or business. I listened to a podcast about micro farming, growing crops on smaller scale and in an urban environment. It was always very fascinating to hear what other people are doing and how they are making a difference in other people’s lives.
What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?
Be consistent and intentional. Do the activity. Read the book, write the article, share your story. Do it again and again. How do you stop bad habits? By replacing them with positive habits. Every year for Lent I try to give up something as a spiritual discipline and add something of value to adopt. I find that by committing to doing it, being dedicated to give up something for 40 days, and focusing on positive habits, let’s me know that I can continue to do it. If I can do it for 40 days, I can do it for 50 days, if I can do it for 50, let’s go for 60 days.
As a business leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
I think we when we are fully present in the moment. When we really enter into an experience and we stay there in state of mindfulness. It is like when you are speaking and you connect with an audience. You can tell that when they are with you and when you see that “ah ha moment” on their faces. They look at you with that “You get me” stare. That’s the state of flow, that synergy that flows between you in the moment and the audience. It is also that moment when you find that key piece of evidence in the medical record or when the universe aligns to carry you toward your goal.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Genuine kindness. It is okay to disagree. Let’s see if we can start from a goal of mutual respect. Can we come together for the common good? What would happen if we took the brightest, most talented people and put them in a room together with one goal and that is to make people’s lives better? Can we get a collective where we include people from all walks of life, no matter how different? Think about it. We can get the kid from the inner city working with the kid from the small farming community together to work on a common project, learning and sharing ideas. That would be awesome.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I always figure, go big or go home. So Michelle Obama if your reading this, let’s do lunch. I really admire her.
Talk about grace under pressure. She was at home with who she is as First Lady and remains comfortable in her own skin. She has class.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Well, I hope our website is finished by the time this is published. It is baxterprofessionalservices.com.
You can also find us on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BaxterProfessionalServices.
I am also on LinkedIn linkedin.com/in/tina-baxter-58b25925.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.