Interview with Dr. Nicole Rochester

On this week’s episode of the PNC podcast, Dr. Nicole Rochester explains how she found fulfillment and freedom as an independent healthcare navigator.

Nicole is a board-certified pediatrician who spent her first four years after residency in primary-care before transitioning to hospital medicine. For about 13 years, she had what she thought was a perfect job: working in a community hospital while teaching medical students and pediatric residents.

Then, in October 2010, her father became quite ill. And she suddenly took on the responsibility of being a family caregiver and healthcare navigator.

Our Sponsor

We're proud to have the University of Tennessee Physician Executive MBA Program, offered by the Haslam College of Business, as the sponsor of this podcast.

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While in the program, you'll participate in a company project, thereby contributing to your organization. As a result, University of Tennessee PEMBA students bring exceptional value to their organizations.

Graduates have taken leadership positions at major healthcare organizations. And they've become entrepreneurs and business owners.

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The Information Gap

When her father’s chronic conditions began deteriorating, Nicole thought being a physician would prepare her to serve as an advocate for his medical care. However, the task was much more difficult than she anticipated. It left her wondering how the other 44 million family caregivers, most of whom do not have a medical background, navigate this intimidating area.

Inspired to address the issue, Nicole started a website and a Facebook page, writing about her experiences caring for her father. She was attempting to bridge the healthcare information gap between patients and medical professionals. So, she began writing about:

  • health insurance and how to appeal denials,
  • finding a good primary care doctor, and
  • communicating effectively with healthcare providers.

Shortly thereafter, Nicole launched her business and began offering consulting services as an independent patient advocate and healthcare navigator. In her role, her allegiance is entirely to her client, so her recommendations are unbiased.


Independent Healthcare Navigator

Initially, Nicole’s business was local to the Maryland area. But now she finds that most of her business is remote. She calls doctors, reviews medications, and helps clients find skilled-nursing and rehab facilities.

Now, she completes most of her work on her computer or cell phone. For example, she often meets with families and doctors via Zoom, Skype or FaceTime, allowing her to offer services to distant clients.

About 50 percent of what doctors tell their patients is not in lay terminology and needs interpretation, in Nicole's experience. Frequently, patients wait until they get home to research what their doctor has told them. As a result, by the time they have formulated their questions, their appointment is long over. As an independent heath advocate, Nicole helps her clients anticipate next steps and ask questions in the moment.

So many people are intimidated by doctors and other healthcare professionals. And the reality is that, if you're not keeping up with that conversation then you're not going to be able to even anticipate the next step.

Dr. Nicole Rochester

Explore a New Passion

When she began working as an independent healthcare navigator, Nicole found that she was one of a handful of physicians offering these services. And she enjoys her new career, especially the flexibility and variety of challenges that it offers.

However, she noted that it can be difficult to start a business without business knowledge and experience. And she had to decide what to charge clients through trial and error.

So, she offers two pieces of advice to physicians looking to pivot from their clinical careers:

  1. Being an entrepreneur, in some ways you need the exact opposite skills of those of a successful physician. Entrepreneurs need to be comfortable taking leaps of faith, making mistakes, and trying again. 
  2. It will take time to replace your income, so you may need to do other clinical or nonclinical work to support yourself while you build your business. 

Becoming an Author and Speaker

Nicole has also written a book, Healthcare Navigation 101: A Guide for College-Bound Students and Parents. The book serves as a guide for college students as they take on the new responsibility of navigating healthcare when away from home.

She is also a speaker and has presented at caregiver conferences and given a TEDx talk about her experience caring for her father.

Links for today's episode:

Thanks to our sponsor…

Thanks to the UT Physician Executive MBA program for sponsoring the show. It’s an outstanding, highly rated, MBA program designed for working physicians. It might be just what you need to prepare for that joyful, well-paying career. You can find out more at

I hope to see you next time on the PNC Podcast.

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Podcast Editing & Production Services are provided by Oscar Hamilton.


The opinions expressed here are mine and my guest’s. While the information provided on the podcast is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge, there is no express or implied guarantee that using the methods discussed here will lead to success in your career, life or business. 

Many of the links that I refer you to, and that you’ll find in the show notes, are affiliate links. That means that I receive a payment from the seller if you purchase the affiliate item using my link. Doing so has no effect on the price you are charged. And I only promote products and services that I believe are of high quality and will be useful to you, that I have personally used or am very familiar with.

The information presented on this blog and related podcast is for entertainment and/or informational purposes only. It should not be construed as medical, legal, tax, or emotional advice. If you take action on the information provided on the blog or podcast, it is at your own risk. Always consult an attorney, accountant, career counsellor, or other professional before making any major decisions about your career. 

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