When Brian Short got his first computer in 1994, he was still a nursing student. “The Internet was fascinating,” he recalled — but in those years before powerful search engines, it was hard to find information online.

“Yahoo was the coolest thing out there, and the branch for nursing only had about 10 links,” Short said. His searches brought up sites devoted to breast-feeding and how to plant trees.

He taught himself to build Web pages and created a website called AllNurses.com that was a directory of resources for the nursing profession. “Software companies started asking me to write reviews for medical software. Then one of them asked if they could advertise,” he said. The hobby was turning into a career.

Always exploring new technology, Short discovered software that helped him create online discussions. “It was a really magical moment,” Short recalled. “It really shifted the focus of the site.” At the same time, search engines were making organized directories obsolete. “It was too much work to keep it up to date, and so much easier just to search,” Short said.

For several years after founding the site, Short continued to work as a nurse — first in geriatrics, then in cardiac care and finally in cardiac critical care. “I slowly scaled back my hours. It wasn’t like a quick transition,” he said. In fact, until a year ago, Short still ran the operation out of his house. “I got an office. I got an assistant. Now I have four staff people. I look back and think, ‘I should have done that years ago’. The only thing that stopped me was that I had a very comfortable life. I saw my kids a lot more. I could work on vacation. I loved that part of my life. As it turns out, I actually have more flexibility now, but I was afraid I would lose it.”

How big has AllNurses.com become?

We have four million unique visitors every month. We have 150,000 unique users every day. Over 45 people have more than 10,000 posts on our site. We have some people who have over 70,000 posts. With over 5,000 pages of content, we have content for searches that other sites don’t.

Why has the site been so successful?

Nurses are unique — it’s a tough job. They love coming to the site to decompress and get some support. Our terms of service that we have molded over the years are a key to our success. We maintain some control over the content. It takes a lot of work to do that. A lot of sites that don’t focus on that, the community takes over and it runs amok.

What is your role in day-to-day operations now?

Half my time is on the advertiser side. The other half is innovating and developing. I think of innovative ways to improve the site and the user experience. I play around with a lot of gadgets and new tools. I have the flexibility to do what I love to do.

Where will you go from here?

I’ve been offered 50 buyouts in the last 10 years. I’ve turned them all down. I have so many ideas that I want to enable. At some point maybe I’ll sell — I have no interest in that now. I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that I’ve had an impact on nursing. It’s a very fulfilling career. □