There is a running joke in the family of Jackie Ward, DNP, RN, NE-BC, that she would do her job for free. As the Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) for Texas Children’s Hospital, she carries a heavy weight of responsibility, but admits that the joke is based in truth: “I just love every day the challenges I face, but I also love the ability to work with a team to conquer them and knowing that there is a family that we are helping to get through one of the toughest times in their lives.” 

A passion for nursing
It’s telling that when describing what she loves so much about her job, she can’t help but mention the teams she gets to work with and the people she serves. For Ward, nursing at every level is all about the people. While Ward always knew that she would go into health care, nursing held special appeal for her. 

“The nurse has the nurturing side of nursing as well as the science side of nursing,” she said. “Bringing those two together, I felt like that’s where my passion was.”

Ward began her career on the hematology/oncology floors of Texas Children’s. While she continues to be interested in the scientific side of medicine, it’s the nurturing side that touched her most while working with children undergoing cancer treatment. 

“[Patients] are there for such long periods of time so you get to build relationships … I just love that part of bedside care,” she said. 

In her current role as CNO, Ward still fills her days by giving support to those in need, be they coworkers solving an administrative problem, floor nurses who need a boost after an especially grueling shift or the families of children admitted to the hospital. 

“As the CNO, I stay connected to the front line and to patients. I do that by rounding. I do that by just walking around talking to staff and engaging with patients and families wherever I can. I’m not hands on, but my passion is for those who are hands on,” Ward said.  

In fact, her love of nursing is easily visible in her leadership philosophy. Her top priority is expressing that dedication back to the 3,700 nurses who work at Texas Children’s. 

“They need to know that they have an advocate and that they are valued,” Ward said. 

Leading at home

This leadership philosophy applies as much to her family life as it does to her position as CNO. 

“Women are leaders at home, and we are leaders at work,” Ward said. 

Ward is able to rely on her family for support as she pursues her love of nursing and leadership. She’s also able to make the time for family when they need her most. Being a leader on two fronts has taught Ward how to approach her varied responsibilities. 

“I call it blending. I don’t call it balance because it’s hard to balance things. It is never going to be 50/50. I call it blending because when you blend, sometimes some things may get more attention than another,” she said.

 “I talk to my children a lot about having a job and having a career, they know that this is not just a job, that this is a passion of mine,” said Ward. 

Joy at work

When reflecting on her favorite parts of her job as CNO, Ward returns to her love of the people at Texas Children’s. Whether she is seeing a nurse advance her career, or encouraging a team to follow up on the goals that they have set, Ward is happy when those around her succeed. 

“Engaging with team members every day is critically important and is the most joyful part of my job,” Ward said.