“I think being willing to fail and being ready to fail and then get up really fast and pivot and make adjustments is really the only way that you can not be scared of the future and go after your goals and big dreams. Don’t be scared to fail, get up quicker, and don’t give up.” – Chris Caulfield, co-founder of IntelyCare, Talking Mentorship, Failure, and Passion in Innovation
We speak with Chris Caulfield, nurse, innovator, and co-founder of IntelyCare. IntelyCare is one of the largest and fastest growing gig economy-based nursing workforce platforms in the United States. In response to the pandemic, IntelyCare provides a free COVID-19 Nurse Safety training course, that has been utilized in 30 countries with over 500,000 completions. Tune in to learn more about the key pieces of advice Chris would give to innovators as they prepare to convey their great ideas and scale them: have passion, find a good mentor, and prepare and pivot from failure! Learn how to utilize these pieces of advice for innovative success in Chris’ episode.
Chris Caulfield is an award-winning Nurse Innovator & Entrepreneur who builds user-friendly technology to combat the nursing shortage. He is passionate about decreasing short-staffing practices and delivering better patient care, so after experiencing short staffing as a floor nurse and union leader, Chris formed a team and built a solution to reduce nurse staffing shortages by creating an on-demand, app-based scheduling solution for nurses and nursing facilities: IntelyCare.
Today, IntelyCare has over 20,000 active Nursing professionals who’ve filled over four million hours of skilled nursing care, making IntelyCare the fastest growing healthcare staffing company in the US. He is a regular contributor to Forbes’ technology council, McKnight’s Long Term Care News, and the Pop Health Perspective Podcast.
Listen to the Podcast
This episode is powered by Untold Content’s Innovation Storytelling Training. Increase buy in for your best ideas in this immersive and interactive, story-driven experience. Where your teams refine storytelling techniques for their latest projects, prototypes and pitches—and get inspired by 25 epic examples of impactful innovation stories.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:00:04] Welcome to Untold Stories of Innovation, where we amplify untold stories of insight, impact and innovation. Powered by Untold Content. I’m your host, Katie Trauth Taylor.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:00:18] Our guest today is Chris Caulfield. He is a nurse, he is an innovator, he is a co-founder of IntelyCare. It is one of the largest and fastest growing gig economy based nursing workforce platforms in the United States. They just earned the largest nurse tech round of venture capital at forty five million Series B. I’m so grateful that you could make time to be on the podcast today, Chris, especially considering the global pandemic and the health crisis that we’re all still dealing with right now in 2020. Thanks for being here.
Chris Caulfield: [00:00:50] Thanks so much for having me, Katie.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:00:52] I was really impressed with IntelyCare’s response earlier this year when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit. You were really, I think, putting out a lot of messages of gratitude to the nursing community. And I think there were so many things going on, especially here in the US, where everyone was really taking a moment to say thanks. I remember some of the cheering that would happen every night. I think it was at seven o’clock and some of the major cities. And you can look back on that. And it’s eerie and strange to see a very quiet and still city like New York, all of a sudden erupting in cheers for our health care workers and the people on the front lines. Can you tell us a little bit about how you’ve navigated the pandemic as co-founder?
Chris Caulfield: [00:01:40] Yeah. So IntelyCare, we’re kind of right in the heart of COVID. Our business…. We work on staffing long-term care facilities. And as many of you know, that is really the industry that is the hardest hit as far as patient effects on COVID and the caregivers and nurses that are taking care of these patients. So we’ve really kind of flipped around our organization really to identify the resources and the interventions that we can appropriately utilize to really help out our clients and our nurses fight against COVID. And, you know, some of the stuff that we’ve been really working on is protecting nurses and giving them the information they really need to know to go into a facility and know what to expect, whether it be the education, whether it be the exposure levels that they’re going into, whether it be the resources for PPE that the facility has to offer to them. So we’ve really taken this seriously and we’ve really turned our whole team around into launching a fight against COVID and helping out nurses and nursing facilities.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:02:48] For those listeners who don’t know, could you tell us a little bit about the pain point that IntelyCare addresses, particularly the shortage of nursing staff?
Chris Caulfield: [00:02:59] Yeah, we focus on post acute care, which is mostly skilled nursing facilities and assisted living, so we’re a workforce management company and really what we’re doing is we’re helping nurses work when they want to around their schedule while at the same time filling the gaps of these long-term care centers. And there’s about 15,000 nursing homes in the United States. And these facilities, they’re not well staffed or resourced from a management and operations perspective compared to the bigger hospitals. They have a scheduling coordinator and a director of nursing that’s really running the whole team there. And what they’re trying to do is fill in for last minute call outs. At the same time, they’re trying to really improve and maintain patient care. So our company is really helping those facilities match to nurses that are in their local area that can’t always work seven days, five days a week, 40 hours a week. So we’re using our technology with mobile apps to really create that ultimate match on who needs a nurse and what nurse can work and then reprioritize, and back those nurses to increase the quality and consistency of care. So that’s really our business. And that’s really what the innovations that we created based on some of the significant issues that we found ourselves working at in nursing homes.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:04:25] So you really have two audiences I would say then for your innovation work. On one hand, it’s the nurses who you need to recruit, who need to be highly skilled and have a desire to join the platform and then also the facilities who will be, I guess, contracting the nursing staff?
Chris Caulfield: [00:04:43] That’s correct. And both of those clients and users of ours, our employees and our facility partners, they both have their own unique issues. And it’s really trying to get their issues and what they’re really looking for as that user and trying to match them up to create that perfect match that ultimately solves the issue of short staffing call outs and improving patient care, which is ultimately the, you know, the final goal of all health care, is to make sure that the patient has the best care at the right time.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:05:14] Yeah. Can you tell us then how nursing has changed? I mean, this was earlier this year. Your company was awarded really the largest venture capital round ever raised for nurse tech. That’s incredible. Congratulations.
Chris Caulfield: [00:05:28] Thank you very much.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:05:29] If you could, tell us about the journey that got you to that point. And I’d love to know, particularly about you know, what kind of impacts IntelyCare has been able to make. And then I’ll dive in more with questions about the storytelling that helped you facilitate that series B.
Chris Caulfield: [00:05:47] Sure. So the pain points that we really experienced… Me as a nurse… I’ve been a nurse for a little bit over ten years now. And when I became a nurse, there was a lot of inefficiencies that were really throughout all nursing, whether it be talking about the electronics from [unclear wording] and documentation. And that’s really what my first innovation came out working in a nursing informatics unit and trying to fix that process to make it easier to actually have nurses work to actually take care of patients rather than do half of their time focusing on documentation. And I was actually… I moved into a role that was a union representative. So I was representing the nurses in my long-term care hospital for their issues with management and what we were really experiencing, the biggest was: being mandated to stay for a double shift or, you know, if we’re not mandated and somehow we slipped through the cracks and there just wasn’t enough nurses at that particular time, you’d be taking on double the amount of patient loads, which really becomes unsafe. So with those issues that we were experiencing and there was times where nurses were, you know, it was basically saying who got mandated last? Or there were times where we had to break up fights of nursing: “I can’t stay.” Well, “You’re going to have to stay.” So these issues were really boiling up. And we went around and we started looking at, you know, what type of contingency staffing solutions or agency staffing solutions can we bring in to really help our particular unit in our particular long-term care center. And at that time, there were really no solutions. So we went out there, we reached out to agencies and some of the queue time for actually getting a nurse, it’s usually… You need a couple of days really ahead of time to request because they’re making phone calls, making emails, really trying to twist people’s arms to come in and pick up a single shift. So the staffing, the outside staffing organizations are really set up to come in and have a travel nurse come in for eight weeks, 12 weeks, because that’s a pretty easy shift to fill for an agency doing manual processes. But as far as filling in that last minute call-off, the call-off where somebody calls in two hours before and there’s really no good solutions, the staff at that particular long-term care facility doesn’t have the time to go through and make 100 phone calls. So we came together and we were, you know, I actually joined and started the company initially with the director of IT that I was working in the hospital with trying to hack the EMR systems. And we came together and said, is there a solution that we… can we… could really take this and we can have an impact? And, you know, we built it from the ground off of kind of a clean slate of code. And he started making the code and trying to make the MBP. And me as the nurse, you know what I was doing… I started off in kind of building the recruitment team, you know, kind of the call center credentialing and actually just filling shifts. So it’s kind of finding out what type of resources you have, what’s your MBP and then ultimately looking at your vision and saying, what are we trying to solve here? So we got together and, you know, we started this process. And, you know, since then, we’ve added a lot of amazing team members that have really built out the company and really drove our company to. You know, recently we’ve been listed as the fastest growing company in Massachusetts, according to Inc magazine.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:09:15] Congrats. That’s incredible.
Chris Caulfield: [00:09:17] Thank you very much. And you know that the fastest growing company isn’t really as exciting to me as thinking about the amount of hours and staff that we’ve sent out there. And, you know, we’ve recently reached over the two million hour mark, you know, in our four year history of being a company. So, you know, we’re serving close to a thousand long-term care centers around the country. And, you know, we’re well over fifteen thousand nurses working for us right now. And that’s really that’s really the number, it’s not the fastest growing as far as revenue, it’s really: how much service are you delivering and what’s the need that you’re filling? And that’s what we’re really excited about, is really helping short staffing and helping patients out there.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:10:01] That’s amazing. It’s absolutely incredible to think about the lag in time and some of the staffing challenges that existed and the ability of a platform like yours to really turn all of that upside down and make things a lot more convenient and gain access much more rapidly to the care providers that they need.
Chris Caulfield: [00:10:22] Yeah, and health care is usually the last to really use this technology. So it’s been waiting for a while. You know, if Uber can do it, you know, ten years ago, health care, we should have been, we should have been first, but usually we’re the last industry to really adopt technology. So…
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:10:37] It’s very challenging. You know something? Hearing your story… Did you ever think that you would be here when you were a nurse or a unit manager? Did you ever envision yourself running a company one day?
Chris Caulfield: [00:10:50] Yeah, I think I had the entrepreneur bug when I was a child and I was just looking for the right opportunity to really, really dabble into that space. I think, you know, I think as a really young kid, I think I was you know, I had my lemonade stand outside, you know, pulling cars over, trying to sell them lemonade. So then I think at high school, I was joining, you know, the Entrepreneurship Club at the YMCA. And I think we were doing, I don’t know, hot dog stands and things like that. And going through college, it was always: what type of profession can you go in and get a job that that’s relatively secure and that gives you flexibility, that can really allow you to use your innovation really to start your own projects? And that was my path along, but I think that I was thinking of: what type of big impact can you have? And where can you… How can you spread this and how can you build that team to really get there? I don’t think I ever thought I would have been in a situation that we’ve had so much success. You know, I think that’s not necessarily what I’ve done. That’s really what the team has come on and been able to do. So I think that that’s really being in the right place at the right time and getting the right people to really scale your idea to have that big impact. So I don’t think I was necessarily thinking I would be where I am today, but it happened and we’re so excited to be here.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:12:12] I want to ask you a deeper question about your team, and that’s where I was going next. But then you said something that really kind of hit me at the gut level and you said, “I wanted to make an impact. I wanted to see how big I could… What the greatest impact could possibly be. And I have to admit that even though I am also an entrepreneur and a CEO, I had this gut reaction where I thought, “that is such a scary desire.” Did you ever feel afraid of that, of having a vision that big? You know, I think sometimes it can feel more comfortable even when we’re starting, you know, creating a new company, whether it’s tech focused or not. You know, we’re creating something new or innovative. It can be a little bit scary to say, “I want to dream of the biggest impact possible, so what gives you the, like, what gives you the sort of like confidence in your gut or so… What is it? What’s the formula for dreaming like that? Because I find it interesting, at least on a personal level, that I find that to be challenging sometimes.
Chris Caulfield: [00:13:15] Yeah, it’s a scary world out there. And I think I think the only reason why my goals I can actually get out there and really try to do that is I’m not scared to fail and, you know, failing. I think when we started IntelyCare, we were targeting a market. We thought it would be the easiest to kind of get our solution into home care. They experience a lot of the same issues and short staffing. And we thought that would be the easiest entry point. And we failed. There were some more complexities within the home care market at the time, and our organization wasn’t really ready for that at that point. And I think being willing to fail and almost being ready to fail and then get up really fast and pivot and turn and make adjustments is really the only way that you can not be scared of the future and really, you know, go after your goals and go after the big dream. So I think that’s one of those conditions or traits that you really need to have. That you’re not scared to fail and you get up quicker and you don’t give up. So I think that’s really allowed me to keep going on this long journey.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:14:25] I love that. Could you tell us a little bit more about the pivot and the teamwork that was involved? I noticed, one of your recent LinkedIn posts, you were talking about your entrepreneurial journey, and you said it wasn’t until you found the right team that you found success. So if you could share with us a little bit more, in your perspective, what makes a great startup team and how have you been able to leverage each other’s strengths? Maybe you can speak about that specifically with regard to the pivot that you just described, or maybe it’s a broader perspective you want to share on the right team.
Chris Caulfield: [00:15:00] Sure. And, to start off with a broader perspective, you know, the team of IntelyCare right now, internally we’re a little bit over 100 internal staff members that are hacking this process. So that’s really, you know, there’s been so many pivots and so many adjustments based on the new team members that we’ve had join that really have got us to that fastest growing company. But if we take it back to the original founders, probably about five years ago, there was more of an idea stage. We were working on home care because we thought it was the easy entry point, you know, going out there and finding a client, which is just dealing with one family versus dealing with a corporation and, you know, dealing with the staff, matching those two. And we thought it would be relatively straightforward and we were relatively successful with that. We were growing the company pretty fast. But it… was it was harder to raise capital in that business because there were a lot of competitors out there that were raising big venture rounds. And we had a small and relatively inexperienced team with me and the first co-founder Ike Nnah. So we were trying some things out. We were actually kind of scared to dabble into new markets. But when… Once we actually brought on two additional co-founders, one being Prince Nnah, the other being David Coppins, they really came in and they looked at the business holistically and they kind of started evaluating, well, what are the type of customers [that] are out there? And then we started looking at long-term care. And it was actually the industry that my… Most of my nursing experience really came from. And we started looking at, you know, there’s you can do this on demand nursing with one client to one nurse or you could have a bigger business that needs a hundred shifts or potentially a thousand shifts. And, you know, your pool of nurses is really able to match better with that availability. And of course, there’s different types of technologies that you have to build to that. It’s not as easy as just having an app and then asking nurses to work. You’re building consistency and ratings and training. But we found that once we had our new co-founders join up and they just went out there and they just started hitting the street and finding out, is there a market fit for our product in these new and different types of businesses that were used to providing care. And what we did is we found some traction and we found some traction. The team that we brought over, you know, our chief sales officer actually had some significant experience in that market. So he was able to get in there and enter faster. And, you know, with our CEO that we brought in at that time and this was still at the early idea stage, he was able to really structure our business and bring in the additional team members around us that would make us more successful. So, you know, without… With sticking at two co-founders, I think that we were just, you know, keep on hitting our heads against the wall. But once we brought in an additional well-rounded team, that’s really what launched us off to that fast track.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:17:59] Incredible. Yes, I… That’s really important advice, I think, that it can feel a lot more nerve wracking and like you need to play it safer if you are really hardly have time to even look up from the current efforts that you’re trying to fulfill. And by strategically putting almost scouts out there to say we are devoting this amount of time to strategy, we’re devoting this effort to looking up and seeing what other go to market strategies could exist, that’s where it sounds like the breakthrough really happened.
Chris Caulfield: [00:18:34] One hundred percent. You need somebody focused on strategic thought and not just in the trenches, in the operations. So that really allowed us to really find our market niche and really explode.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:18:49] And that is truly such a challenge for most startups. So it’s really helpful to hear how you guys were able to navigate that part of your journey. I want to go back to storytelling. What role do you feel storytelling played in the beginning when you were just getting traction for Intelycare? And then I want to fast forward and ask, what was it like raising your latest round and how has the story honed and shifted over the years?
Chris Caulfield: [00:19:18] Sure. The story, at least my founder’s story has always really been the same because I was really in the life of a nurse and being stuck and experiencing those nurses fighting over who’s staying and taking care of too many patients that you could take care of safely. So I think the story has mostly been the same for me, you know, and the business has really taken that story and used it really to get other new employees excited to join the company. And, you know, starting from the initial co-founders, you know, without that story, we wouldn’t have convinced our other fellow co-founders to join because you can’t really get that much excitement off of just describing a business. You really have to understand the emotional impacts and the vision and what we’re really going to go out there and what we’re going to solve. And there’s a story behind that with nurses and patients that really need the proper care. So I think that from the start getting the founders, the story was incredibly important. And, you know, up from there, every time that, you know, our company has had a success, whether it be winning a client to come on and to join our organization to actually staff them, there’s going to be a story behind that and what type of benefits and features that we have, but still understanding their story and what really is their pain. And, you know, until you understand their story, you’re not going to actually be able to go to join up and partner with them. So I think there’s a combination of a bunch of different factors there of stories. And as far as pitching for investors, that’s really the intro is you have to have an investor understand how this is working out in the real world. And what does this actually impact? And the story is how you intro any type of pitch that you’re going to present, whether it be to an investor, whether it be to your boss, whether it, you know, just to be a colleague, to really get them get them on board, to get them motivated and get them driven and have the same vision that that really what you’re trying to solve. So I think storytelling is extremely important and it’s a must have for any type of entrepreneur that wants to be successful.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:21:33] It matters so deeply that you had so many firsthand experiences as a nurse, listening and experiencing those pains in scheduling and over shortages of staff at a personal level, because it sounds like that’s played a role in the messaging that’s created this pull strategy to let your network of nurses, nursing staff grow. And you mentioned the desire to have more flexibility in their schedules or a desire not to have those kinds of fights or to make a good amount, a fair amount of money for the kinds of services they provide. So I’m imagining that the stories and the messaging that you articulate to the nursing staff is different from the clients. Can you tell us a little bit about how – what’s also interesting to me is when you have different audiences, and almost every startup or team does, when you have different audiences, you also have to make sure that the stories you’re telling to either audience still will resonate and not alienate the other audience.
Chris Caulfield: [00:22:39] Yeah.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:22:39] So could you tell us about how you’ve kind of negotiated that or worked to kind of align a larger message for the company?
Chris Caulfield: [00:22:48] Sure. And I think a lot of the messaging really… We’ve got a great team of marketing, real senior level folks that have joined the team that can really hone in on this messaging. So they’ve taken it to a much higher level than I can even explain. However, short staffing it really speaks on both the nurse and the healthcare organization, the long-term care facility. They both understand that. They may think of, you know, the ramifications of that are quite different. So from a facility perspective, short staffing, they could be thinking about patient outcomes and in patient outcomes as a business, they think about, you know, the reimbursement that goes along with sending a patient back to the hospital. They can get dinged from CMS in the current system. They also think about turnover and what that impact will have and the trickle down effect throughout their whole staff and their ability to really maintain good staffing for safe care. So, you know, it’s a slightly different perspective when you’re thinking about their pains. But, you know, short staffing, they understand short staffing and what it means to them. And the nurses side, the nurses and CNAs, short staffing was just like the situation that I really experienced. It’s taking on too many patients and feeling like it’s unsafe. It’s being very, very stressed out, having complex patients and not having any help from other nurses and not because the other nurses don’t want to help you. It’s just because they have their own patient load and nursing home, you know, it’s slightly different from being at a hospital. At a hospital, you might take four or five patients on as a nurse and in a nursing home you might have 15 to 20. So it’s a lot of managing and juggling and making sure you’re prioritizing appropriately. So I think the story and the pain point are the same, but how they think about how it affects themself and their business is slightly different. But, you know, you all tie it back into ultimately patient care and well-being of the staff. And everyone really understands that.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:25:00] I see also that your platform is diversifying. You don’t only supply nursing staff now, you also train nurses and now you are the creator of the highest utilized COVID-19 nurse training course. Did I get that right?
Chris Caulfield: [00:25:15] Yes. Yeah, we’ve had about five hundred thousand completions, a little over 500,000 completions of our COVID-19 nurse training. And, you know, to date, I haven’t been able to find anybody that’s had a higher utilized course. So that was an amazing innovation that we really were able to push off in a short period of time. I think it was… February when we started hearing the stories of nurses saying that they’re not prepared and they really don’t have any training or policies in place to really take on COVID and to understand COVID. And, you know, I think the National Nurses United survey came out and really showed that with some metrics. And when we saw that, I really came up and I started talking to the executive team, the senior team, and saying that, hey, we’ve built some training before in the past and we made some animated modules and there was rapid adoption in our app of nurses taking these courses that weren’t actually required. But, you know, we had sixty thousand completions, you know, within six months of these courses, which was pretty incredible, the amount of traction that we had. So we had the process down as far as creating animated modules, making them fun, making them interactive. And we had the resources because we’ve had the team that, really, that took this on and was able to do it fast. So we buckled down, made a plan and really just, you know, worked through the nights getting this COVID-19 course and, you know, ultimately comes out to I think it’s a one contact hour course. And we were able to get it accredited and we pushed it off into the LinkedIn world, into the social media world. And what we did is we really had traction. When we asked nurses to share the course, we gave them a little message and we said, you know, share #COVID19NurseSafety as a hashtag. And nurses started sharing that with their friends and their colleagues. And we started looking at the Google tracking. And there was over 30 countries of nurses that took the course and over five hundred thousand completions. And we were able to create a little platform for facilities to sign up their nurses and to track their progress. And we had several hundred facilities even, you know, not just in the US and not just hospitals and nursing homes. We had universities and different international institutions that actually signed up their staff. And we had some great success. And we, you know, we’re looking at this as: well, if we can do this, you know, what other type of trainings can we provide out to the market of those that really need nurse training and provide an interactive form of that? So it’s super exciting. We had great success. I think we had a big impact. And now we’re kind of looking at the future and saying, what can we do next with this Nurse Education?
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:28:01] Yes. That’s incredibly exciting. And I just want to say as well, I know we kind of started with this. Thank you for your company. Thank you to all of the nursing professionals who are part of intel care, all of the nursing professionals on the front line or not on the front lines. Thank you for everything that you’re doing. And I know that this has been a really unpredictable and unprecedented time and we really just can’t say thank you enough. As we wrap up, could you share some keys to success or pieces of advice that you would give to innovators as they prepare to convey their great ideas and scale them?
Chris Caulfield: [00:28:40] Sure, so I’ll give you three key advice points. One is, before you start any innovation or entrepreneurship journey, make sure you’re passionate about the issue. If you don’t have passion for your issue, you won’t be really dedicated to putting in the 50, 60, 70 hours of work it’s going to take a week to really get your product out to the market. So have passion. Secondly, it’s: find a good mentor. We couldn’t have made IntelyCare what it is without bringing on more senior folks that have done it before. So no matter how much passion you have, if you haven’t done it before, there’s a learning process and it will become much, much easier if you bring in a mentor that’s done it. And third, as I mentioned before, is: you’re going to fail more often than you succeed and just be ready for it. It’s part of innovating. It’s part of entrepreneurship. And if you’re scared of failure, there’s no way that you’ll actually succeed.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:29:42] That is a powerful way to close out our conversation. Chris, thank you so much. I know that I’m going to take a lot of these strategies with me as I continue working with my business. And I hope that everyone listening is inspired by the growth that IntelyCare has seen. Thanks for everything that you’re doing.
Chris Caulfield: [00:30:00] Thanks so much for having me, Katie.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:30:03] Where can listeners find out more about IntelyCare and you?
Chris Caulfield: [00:30:07] So our website is intelycare.com and you can find me. I’m pretty active on LinkedIn. It’s Christopher Caulfield, R.N., NP-C for my title.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:30:20] Perfect. And we will also link the COVID-19 nurse training course in the show notes and we’ll link to the website as well so you can follow all of their exciting growth this year. Thank you so much, Chris, for being on the podcast.
Chris Caulfield: [00:30:34] Thanks so much, Katie.
Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:30:37] Thanks for listening to this week’s episode. Be sure to follow us on social media and add your voice to the conversation. You can find us at Untold Content.
You can listen to more episodes of Untold Stories of Innovation Podcast.
*Interviews are not endorsements of individuals or businesses.