The Battle Among Health Systems for Nurses: This Black CEO is Turning the Table

More than simply pandemic-related stress is making many nurses consider leaving their careers. In that regard, Incredible Health appears to assist the backbone of our healthcare system, addressing issues before they quit.
Incredible Health co-founders is building a product for nursing careers
Courtesy: Incredible Health
By | 8 min read

The Covid-19 pandemic has been going on for three years, and the American healthcare system is still suffering from a severe nursing shortage: A further 500,000 registered nurses (RNs) are expected to retire by the end of this year, and more than one-third of hospitals throughout the country have nurse vacancy rates that are higher than 10%.

Hospital executives have used temporary staff to meet patient demand, but this is becoming an increasingly expensive solution as The American Hospital Association points out that because of the pandemic’s disruptions, placement agencies’ fees have increased by three times since January 2020.

That’s where Incredible Health arises in. It was founded in 2017 by Dr. Iman Abuzeid and Rome Portlock in San Francisco, California, and functions something like a beefed-up version of LinkedIn for nurses. Approximately 60% of the biggest hospital systems in the US, including Cedars-Sinai and Baylor Scott & White, have joined the platform.

These organizations pay the startup to publish their available positions while its in-house matching technology selects the most qualified individuals for the positions.

Incredible Health is a medical and health platform that connects health systems with nurses. It is built to assist medical professionals in leading healthier lives and in discovering and performing their best work. Over 600 hospitals nationally, including Johns Hopkins, Cedars Sinai, Stanford, HCA Healthcare, and Kaiser Permanente, use Incredible Health.

Recently, the startup was named as one of the 23 most promising B2B Marketplaces of 2022, in an article published by

In November 17, Iman Abuzeid was named to Forbes’ inaugural list of 50 leaders who are shaping the future of the workplace. The list highlights workers who are helping to shape conversations about the coming years of workplace flexibility, mental health, burnout and more.

Dr. Iman Abuzeid and the Story Behind Her Empire

Iman Abuzeid was born to Sudanese parents in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, she has had deep insight into the complexities of healthcare for most of her life.

Her brothers and father are both accomplished surgeons. She also hails from a long history of entrepreneurs; in Sudan, both of her grandfathers are prosperous businesses. Naturally, the topic of staff shortages was frequently discussed in her family.

Abuzeid received her medical training at University College London, but her grandfather influenced her to create her own path by leaving the daily practice of medicine.

She quit her UK medical residency program to take a position in medical consulting in the United States. She made the first step toward becoming her own boss with that single action.

Abuzeid worked on a variety of projects, such as the treatment and prevention of blindness in the Middle East, managing hospital and pharmaceutical company partnerships, doing analyses of the financial benefits of vaccines, and more.

This woman understood that her interests went beyond just giving individualized care. Instead, she had a more broader vision that included closing wide care gaps and addressing systemic problems that have an international impact on the healthcare sector.

Prior to enrolling in Wharton’s M.B.A. program, she originally worked at Booz & Co. in New York City, where she provided consulting on hospital management and strategy. She then worked as a product manager for a San Francisco-based firm in the field of digital healthcare.

There, she met Rome Portlock, an MIT graduate with whom she co-founded Incredible Health. 

“I wanted to build and create things that would have an impact on a large scale,” she said. “Not just one-on-one with patients.”

How Incredible Health Deals with Nurse Workforce Shortage?

Incredible Health CEO speaks in a healthcare conference
Courtesy: Incredible Health

When Dr. Iman Abuzeid founded Incredible Health, a nurse staffing engine, in 2017, she had no idea that a pandemic would soon make finding medical staff for hospitals much more difficult. However, she felt that some of the gaps in the healthcare system could be filled with technology.

Why nurses are quitting their jobs

Nursing has always been a tough job and the covid has turned a problem into a crisis. A survey conducted by nurse staffing firm Incredible Health found that more than one-third of nurses intend to quit their jobs before the end of the year.

One of the main factors contributing to moral discomfort and burnout is understaffing. “It both increases the workload of nurses while also making them feel less valued (by their employer),” said Jane Muir, a nurse and nurse researcher at the University of Virginia.

In some cases, nurses were even furloughed or asked to take pay cuts as hospitals decided to cancel elective surgeries and ambulatory care, normally key revenue sources, to deal with the influx of covid patients.

Employers claim they can’t find nurses with enough experience, and some nurses are even unable to find work. There are differences between urban and rural places as well. For example, markets in cities like San Francisco might be oversaturated with nursing school grads, whereas the Central Valley of California would have fewer nursing programs or graduates to recruit from.

Turning the tables in favor of nurses – The Frontline Heroes

The U.S. doesn’t have enough nurses to fulfill rising demand for healthcare services and workforce, and many facilities are looking for solutions to minimize the amount of time it takes to find and hire nurses for a variety of different positions.

Incredible Health is turning the tables by having hospitals apply for nurses instead of the other way around. Employing managers can utilize the online portal to identify nurses with qualifications rapidly. While creating an account is free for nurses, hospitals must pay the startup to gain access.

Using automation, data and recruiting technology, Incredible Health shortens the time it takes to fill nursing vacancies. The proprietary algorithms handle the task of reviewing applications, which frequently keeps many hospitals bogged down in a drawn-out hiring procedure. According to Abuzeid, hospitals can fill vacancies using Incredible Health 3 times more quickly than they could before.

Registered nurses collaborate in an Incredible Health workshop
Courtesy: Incredible Health

Today, nurses can submit an application and wait while the algorithms find the hospitals the best-suited nurses. Nurses no longer need to aggressively apply to several nursing positions since hospitals only see nurses who are the best match. Instead, prospective employee and employer can see as the finest offers come to them.

“If you’re a healthcare worker or nurse, you shouldn’t have to rely on your connections and who you know, or nepotism or anything like that to get the job,” Abuzeid says. “And the amazing thing about technology is that we can level the playing field.”

For the talent seeker side, the platform uses algorithms to assist hospitals in focusing their search depending on who is available while screening nurse credentials and employment choices. The software divides nurses into 250 skill categories and 70 specializations.

“Nurses are the backbone of the US healthcare system, and they deserve the well-staffed teams and tools to not only succeed, but also feel fulfilled in their careers,” said Iman Abuzeid.

Instead of hiring for contract positions or temporary travel nursing assignments, Incredible Health focuses on filling permanent nurse employment.

More than a job portal, nurses come to this platform can get full support for their career paths. In addition to getting a stable position, nurses can use Incredible Health to create professional connections, grow their expertise, and take advantage of relocation opportunities and educational scholarships.

Defying the Odds: From Black CEO to Drawing Interest from Investors

Incredible Health CEO and co-founder speaks in a healthcare meetup event
Courtesy: Incredible Health

A bunch of tech-enabled marketplaces for nurses are attempting to help solve the shortage by pairing healthcare workers with hospitals. Despite the market downturn, it is a sector that still draws interest from investors.

In that moment, Incredible Health pops up as a potential growing company, investors have been taking notice of the startup even before the pandemic. A $15 million Series A fundraising round for the business was headed by venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitz in 2019, participated by other firms such as Precursor Ventures and Gingerbread Capital.

But raising capital as a startup led by a black woman isn’t always easy, Abuzeid shared. “The latest data shows that African American women only get .2% of venture capital,” she said.

“In a lot of ways, I and my cofounder — we are defying the odds. There’s been a few tactics to overcome it. But statistics show there’s systemic bias.”

After 5 Years of Hard Work: Hitting $1B Valuation Mark

“It’s probably not a good idea to overlook female CEOs or Black CEOs. Because they’re driving an enormous amount of value in business.” said Dr. Iman Abuzeid, cofounder and CEO of Incredible Health.

Five years ago, Abuzeid created Incredible Health with the ambition of helping healthcare professionals live better lives, and a mission of helping nursing staff find and do their best work. In August, the startup marked an important step in fulfilling that mission

It was just officially confirmed in August 2022 that the CEO of healthtech hiring platform Incredible Health has led the company’s valuation to unicorn status at $1.65 billion. Only three other Black women in the world who have actually achieved this, one of them being Rihanna.

“As the highest valued tech-enabled career marketplace in healthcare, we’ve transformed how nurses are hired and will build on this work to help health systems and healthcare workers manage surging patient demand in the midst of a national labor crisis,” Abuzeid said in statement.

The Series B investment, which was led by Base 10 Partners, also featured Andreessen Horowitz, Obvious Ventures, Chano Fernandez, the CEO of Workday, NBA player Andre Iguodala, Rethink Impact, Stardust Equity, and the 444 Capital Fund of the D’Amelio family.

This new investment comes on the heels of several important achievements for Incredible Health over the last 18 months. Revenue increased by 500% in 2021 as their market expanded rapidly. Every week, more than 10,000 US nurses sign up for Incredible Health’s platform, which has grown from working with 200 hospitals to 600 institutions.

Their marketplace innovation has lowered the average time to hire permanent nurses to just 14 days – from an industry standard of 82 days – while saving each hospital spot at least $2M annually in travel nurse, overtime, and HR costs.

In light of the new capital, Abuzeid is emphatic that it will support her Incredible Health’s mission of helping health workers have the opportunity to better lives, as well as live out their dream roles.

The latest financing will help Incredible Health utilize machine learning technology to optimize every step of the employment process, including screening and matching, creating a more individualized and automated experience for both employers and healthcare employees.

Incredible Health is on Nasdaq listing
Courtesy: Incredible Health

With personalized advice and content ranking, they will undoubtedly improve Incredible Health’s technologically advanced nurse community, preserving its position as the largest online community for nurses and other healthcare professionals.

Abuzeid intends to leverage the fund to scale up to 90% of the nursing workforce in the U.S. and support healthcare workers beyond nursing that face severe shortages. “Our goal is to be the market leader in healthcare labor,” said Abuzeid.

For the time being, the business is in competition with conventional placement agencies, non-healthcare-specific job boards like Indeed, and a small number of other AI-driven nurse HR platforms.

Incredible Health stands apart from its competitors in the HR technology market because it primarily concentrates on hiring permanent employees, who are frequently less expensive and ultimately more effective than temporary workers.

“I hope that I’m a proof point to everyone who says that it can’t be done,” Abuzeid says, while advising those who look like her to “compartmentalize” the bias in the system and focus on their visions and missions.

“And to those who are unfortunately driving some of that bias in the system, at the end of the day, it’s probably not a good idea to overlook female CEOs or Black CEOs. Because they’re driving an enormous amount of value in business. And you overlook it at your own expense.” She added.

What’s Ahead for Incredible Health

A set of investors that joined this series B were Charli and Dixie D’amelio. They both are social media stars. Incredible Health’s been investing heavily in the influencers’ social presence among healthcare workers because, frankly, that’s where to engage with them.

“Gen Z nurses, and millennial nurses are very active on social media,” Abuzeid says. “Including the use of influencers is very, very important as part of our growth strategy and our ability to engage with talent.”

Besides enhancing its presence on social media, the startup will continue to develop its technology, strengthen their advice community and broaden its size all over the States. The journey for Incredible Health is looking bright ahead, but there still remain challenge in this competitive market. We believe challenge is a good thing for change, and Incredible Health was born for that.

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