In this episode of the Ask Nurse Alice podcast, Nurse Alice sits down with Virginia Lynn Peterson, founder of SWOOP, a company that creates comfortable bras and underwear for healthcare professionals. Together they discuss why wearing comfortable undergarments is so important in the medical field and how being uncomfortable can affect quality of care.
Virginia has worked in many different specialties during her nursing career, from NICU, to peds ER, to adult ER, to cardiovascular observation. Peterson attributes the need to help others, the desirable schedule, and the constant learning opportunities as driving factors for becoming a nurse.
“There are so many options in nursing and that opportunity to learn just never stops,” Peterson tells Nurse Alice.
She was inspired to launch SWOOP after struggling to find undergarments that she could comfortably work twelve-hour shifts in.
“I’ve been a little bit crafty throughout my life, and I’m like ‘I think I’m gonna just make a bra,’” Peterson says in the episode. After finishing the bra, she says it felt like “the perfect work bra”, which inspired her to actually pursue the creation of undergarments for healthcare professionals as a business opportunity.
As a nurse herself, Peterson knows the importance of being comfortable while working long shifts.
Nurse Alice shared her own experiences with restrictive undergarments at work, discussing how a slipping bra strap or uncomfortable underwear can be especially distracting when trying to perform life-saving procedures.
Peterson explains that simple design changes, such as putting the fasteners and adjusters on the front of the garments and using extra-soft materials, make all the difference in the world in terms of comfort.
SWOOP garments also come in a variety of fun patterns and prints (no solids here!) in order to support Peterson’s goal of nurses not only feeling comfortable at work, but also feeling confident about themselves during a long shift.
Peterson notes that 12-hour shifts are already hard enough and uncomfortable undergarments can make the experience even more challenging. By prioritizing comfort, nurses can focus on their work and provide the best possible care to their patients.
Image: Virginia Lynn Peterson on LinkedIn
Transitioning from bedside nurse to entrepreneur was a bit scary for Peterson, telling Nurse Alice, “I’ve had to really put myself out there way more than I ever imagined.”
She goes on to explain how there was a big learning curve when it came to starting her own business, including learning things like marketing and product development.
Peterson was still working full-time as a nurse when she launched SWOOP, so juggling her nursing career and her entrepreneurial pursuits proved to be especially challenging at times. Eventually, she realized that her current path was unsustainable and that she needed to find a better balance. She now works part-time as a nurse while also running SWOOP.
Still, Peterson says becoming an entrepreneur was the right choice for her.
“Follow your passions,” she says in the episode. “Try to do something that scares you every single day. And for me, this is that. Life is just too short to not be trying to pursue these things and fear shouldn’t be one of the things that holds you back.”
Nurse Alice adds, “Do not be so tied up in the traditional view of nursing that you postpone a dream because you think people are going to think you’re not enough of a nurse.”
As SWOOP saw growing success, Peterson quickly realized the importance of delegation when running a business.
Peterson now has five employees that she can delegate tasks to, but it wasn’t always easy for her to give the reins over to someone else. She attributes this partially to her ER nursing background and her personality type.
“It’s this feeling of ‘this is my patient! I don’t want anyone else to touch this patient!’ Because I just want to be in control all the time and it’s hard to let that go, but life gets so much easier when you ask for help,” Peterson explains in the episode.
Even in daily life, Peterson has noticed that nurses in particular struggle with asking for help and her time as an entrepreneur has taught her how important it is to surround yourself with supportive people.
“When we don’t ask for help, we fatigue ourselves,” Nurse Alice says in the episode. “Your ego is not your amigo!”
Peterson also recommends scheduling time for yourself as a way to prevent burnout and ensure you are meeting your personal needs.
“The take-home message: Make time for yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup,” says Nurse Alice.