Nurse. Triathlete. Entrepreneur. One Badger nurse is building her legacy her way.
By Megan Hinners
Professional photos by Carley Anne Photo
Additional photos provided by Becky Berkan
Becky (Travis) Berkan ’03, RN, CEN, is no stranger to expanding her comfortable limits. After stepping away from participating in athletic activities for a decade, she decided to get back into a sport that she had always enjoyed – running. She set out to train for the Madison Marathon in 2012, which would eventually get canceled due to extreme heat conditions. Rather than shrug her shoulders and call it a day, Berkan persisted with her training and eventually ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2013.
“My goal was to beat Oprah (Winfrey), and I don’t think I beat Oprah,” she admitted in a 2021 interview with the Oregon Observer newspaper. “I didn’t have a coach, I didn’t know anything about nutrition. At the end, I was definitely struggling. I didn’t have a good time.”
Berkan could have, once again, thrown in the towel. But instead, a bet with a work colleague transpired and she found herself agreeing to compete in the 2020 IRONMAN Wisconsin triathlon. Having only had running experience, Berkan bought a bike, found a swim coach, and enlisted the expertise of triathlon coach Miranda Bush.
She faced challenges, long days of training, and some setbacks. But her drive and determination pushed her forward. Even after COVID-19 canceled the race in 2020, she continued her training and signed up to participate the following year, completing all 140.6 miles of the IRONMAN Wisconsin race on September 12, 2021.
“I think that it is important that nurses know they are unique in that your career choice can be ever changing. That is the best thing about nursing!”
Berkan, who earned her bachelor of science in nursing from UW–Madison in 2003, says that it takes a lot to get her “razzled.” It’s that ability to handle the high-stress situations and roll with the punches that can be a big asset, not just in her triathlon training, but in her career and personal life.
The Oregon, Wisconsin, native has spent over 20 years as an emergency department nurse, a position which she truly enjoys. However, she notes that she began to feel the need to step outside her comfortable limits and utilize her skill sets in other areas. “I had an itch to expand my nursing skills and opportunities,” said Berkan. “So, I became a legal nurse consultant and currently work for a law firm in Madison.”
Soon after, she added mobile IV nurse to her resume, traveling to people’s homes and offices to provide IV hydration and vitamin therapy. In this role, she found her love for a new form of nursing.
“This is why I love nursing,” she said. “You never have to stop where you are at. You want to expand your career, you can! Not many professions have the ability to do what we do.”
Berkan moved on from her role as an IV nurse, but her desire to look at different roles outside her traditional position at the bedside remained. “After COVID-19 came, I felt the need to cut back my hours at the bedside and chase another dream,” she said. “I’ve always had a passion for aesthetics and skin health, so I decided to take on a new role as nurse entrepreneur. I went big, and opened up a med spa in my hometown where I’ve been able to build a practice by helping others feel and look their best. I’m still putting in hours at the bedside, but this new nursing chapter has allowed me to broaden my skill set to a new level that I never thought was in the cards for me. Being a business woman in the nursing profession was not something necessarily taught when I went to nursing school in the early 2000s. However, I think that it is important that nurses know they are unique in that your career choice can be ever changing. That is the BEST thing about nursing!”
“I love that I have this career where I can keep expanding into areas that I never thought possible. You can’t do that with many other careers.”
Q: How are you able to utilize your nursing skills and training in this new role at BellaReis Med Spa?
Berkan: Being a nurse injector is not just Botox and needles in faces. You have to have training, know facial anatomy, possible complications, etc.. I definitely think that it is the most artistic form of nursing, but also one of the most challenging. I come from a background where if you don’t ask questions when you don’t understand something, someone could die. As an emergency room nurse, I am comfortable in the emergency department. When I went into the field of aesthetics, I developed an imposter syndrome feeling. I realized that I need to ask the questions; I needed to get the training; I needed to do all of the education; I needed to practice on every single friend and every single family member. Knowing what goes into training a nurse and how much practice I needed before feeling confident showed me what it was going to take to be successful as a nurse injector at BellaReis.
Q: How does your nursing background help you as an entrepreneur?
Berkan: I think one of the greatest gifts that my nursing career has given me is the ability to form relationships quickly and efficiently. In the emergency department, I have about two hours total to connect with my patients. You would think this is not a lot of time to form a meaningful relationship, but I beg to differ. I can tell you to this day about some of my very first patients 20 years ago. They resonate with me. Connections happen every day, usually when we least expect it! As I have practiced over the years, this skill has become easier for me. I’ve carried that over into my entrepreneurial life. Starting a business, I have formed a lot of new relationships, new clients, new vendors, new drug reps, etc.. My background in nursing has made this easier for me.
“I would love to be remembered as the Badger nurse who always stepped outside of her comfort zone and then succeeded.”
Q: What makes your role as a nurse entrepreneur so rewarding?
Berkan: Maybe come back and ask me this in a year or so! Starting a business has been hard, and I have definitely had my fair share of setbacks. However, looking back and seeing what has been built over the last six months is incredibly rewarding. Being able to take an idea and turn it into something that I am passionate about and thoroughly enjoy, all while using my nursing career, has been an absolute blessing.
Q: What advice do you have for fellow Badger nurses who might be considering starting their own business?
Berkan: Don’t jump into it. Go out there, use that amazing degree, and get some experience. If you still think after a few years at the bedside that starting a business is for you, take a business class; talk to other business owners; shadow a nurse in that role (I’m always available!); join social groups; get involved in your community; put down some roots.
Q: What is the legacy you hope to leave as a Badger nurse?
Berkan: I would love to be remembered as the Badger nurse who always stepped outside her comfort zone and then succeeded. We can do hard things. Nothing is ever accomplished when you’re “comfortable” all the time. I love that I have this career where I can keep expanding into areas that I never thought possible; you can’t do that with many other careers. And now, I’ve opened up an entire new realm: the business world. I am 41 years old and don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. I’ve got a lot more to accomplish and I can thank the UW–Madison School of Nursing for that!