Redefined and laser-focused entrepreneur

January 30, 2017

Over the coming months, look for videos, stories and events that feature some of the many Wayne State initiatives and passionate individuals committed to impacting their communities through innovation and entrepreneurship. This content is part of WSU's Warriors in Action campaign highlighting how Wayne State is making a difference.

Redefined and laser-focused Rose Torrento cares for patients in 48 states, meeting their needs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. How can one nurse do it all?

Torrento, a Wayne State alumna (B.S. ’96, M.S. ’98), never imagined she would make an impact of this magnitude when she was sitting in her kitchen one day in 1996 sifting through the mail.

It was a trying time. Torrento had been a young nurse and loved the job, but a latex allergy had abruptly ended her career. Hospitals were not equipped to handle the issue at the time, so Torrento found herself jobless and labeled a liability to employ. “I was really down and out,” she says. “But one day when I was going through my mail, there was a postcard from Wayne State. I looked at it and decided I would redefine myself.”

Torrento met with an academic advisor who reviewed her skills and helped her choose a course of study. A degree in nursing was not an option because the program required clinical rotations, but the advisor suggested psychology. Torrento had strong medical knowledge and wanted to help patients, so she agreed it might be a good fit. She then met with Professor Marlyne Kilbey in the psychology department. “That was the beginning of a whole new world for me,” Torrento says.

Kilbey took an interest in her and offered to work with Torrento to design a program of study that would allow her to apply her nursing skills and expand her knowledge in psychology. She also offered Torrento a position on a research team. This was a much-needed lifeline for Torrento because she was a single mother. The job enabled her to work in the lab and fund her studies while taking care of her daughter. “Wayne State saved my life,” Torrento says. “They truly care about education and the people they educate.”

She excelled in the undergraduate program and went on to graduate studies in psychology immediately after finishing her bachelor’s.

Torrento also began a new job at Beaumont Hospital recruiting nurses. She enjoyed the work and was happy to be in the nursing industry again — but she wanted more.

She was approached at a business fair by investors looking to start a private nursing recruitment firm. Torrento joined their team and built their business quickly. Under her leadership, the company made $6 million in revenue within the first six months. It was an exciting time, but Torrento still desired more. She aspired to lead a firm of her own. “I didn’t want to work for someone,” she says.  

That drive led her to an ambitious new project partnering with an IT and engineering recruitment company that had taken a hit during the recession and was facing possible closure. Torrento saw an opportunity to help a struggling business and reach her goal of becoming an entrepreneur. “I didn’t have the money to start a business,” she says. “All I had was the intellectual capital that Wayne State gave me.”

Torrento struck a deal with the company owners. She would help them pay off their debt by shifting their focus to nurse recruitment. If she succeeded, they would make her co-owner of the company. Two years later, the debt-free company was making $20 million in revenue, and Torrento became co-owner of the newly renamed Health Providers Choice.

Torrento is now CEO, president and chief executive nurse of the thriving company.

She credits much of her success to the pivotal moment when she chose to attend Wayne State. The university helped her grow as a health care provider in ways she did not anticipate, and the skills she learned at Wayne State still affect her career.

Today, Torrento stays connected to Wayne State as an active volunteer in the College of Nursing, where she serves as chair of the Board of Visitors and co-chair of the college’s Pivotal Moments campaign. She also is a generous donor, a role she enjoys because it allows her to help students who may be struggling like she did. “It’s getting harder for adults to go to school,” she says. “The more I can give back the better. This is our future and our kids’ future.”

Torrento’s own future continues to be bright, and she intends to use it to help others every day. She cherishes her roles as an independent businesswoman and nurse. In this combined capacity, Torrento is one nurse whose influence is felt through every action of every nurse she sends to a new hospital, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This is not the nursing career Torrento had planned for, but it is the one she built from a place of adversity by redefining what it means to be a care provider. “I was forced to look at a whole new way to use my nursing skill,” she says. “If you have a passion for something, you can find it at Wayne State.”