Jackie Ward has always known she wanted a career working in the health industry. After all, she grew up watching her mother serve patients as a nurse at Texas Children’s Hospital. So it’s no surprise that she would follow in her mother’s footsteps. And now, 27 years later, her dedication and commitment is leading her to one of the hospital’s top spots.
Jackie is poised to take over as Chief Nursing Officer, not only making history as the first African American in that position, but she’ll be leading one of the world’s top nursing units.
She talks with the Defender with this monumental accomplishment.
Defender: As a woman of color, do you feel a special pride in this position?
Ward: Absolutely. As a woman of color, as a woman in general, representing this organization is something I take pride in. I’m honored to have little girls that look like me be able to say, ‘I can do that. I can be a nurse and an executive. I can lead the nursing service of the largest pediatric hospital in the world.’ And they can see that hard work, perseverance and resilience in being authentic in what you want to be from a very early age can pay off. I want people that look like me to see that our nurses care about all races, ethnicities, people of walks of life. And as we work through embracing diversity and inclusion and equality they will see that Texas Children’s leads by that mantra. Our CEO believes in that. And so I’m just honored to be able to represent that.
Defender: What does being CNO entail?
Ward: The chief nursing officer is the visionary for the nursing service, in order to establish the highest level of quality of care, service and safety. So that’s a huge responsibility. I oversee 3,500 nurses across all the system. We have three hospitals, a variety of Texas Children’s pediatric locations, health centers, etc. And the CNO has to link, practice and advance the care of pediatric healthcare and women’s services. So it’s a strategic role and it is not one that should be taken lightly. The nurses in this organization are critical. They play an integral role in the healthcare team. They’re the person who is with the patients the majority of the day. And so as the Chief Nursing Officer, I have to establish the strategic priorities for nursing to ensure that they deliver on the care that our community expects and deserves.
Defender: Is nursing something that you’ve always wanted to do?
Ward: Healthcare was always a no-brainer for me. I’m a second generation, Texas Children’s employee. My mother, Marilyn Lacey retired from here after 36 years of service. So it’s always been a part of my life. I became a TCH family member at the age of seven because that’s when my mother started working here. So I’ve seen it grow from one building to the massive enterprise that it is today. I remember vividly sitting at the table, the dinner table with our family and her talking about how she loved her job, and the CEO, Mark A. Wallace, who is still the CEO. So it’s a generational legacy for me. I started off being a pre-med major in college until I realized how long it was going to take me to get out of school. I switched to nursing, but nursing really was where I was supposed to be, because it’s an art and a science, and it’s where I excel.
Defender: When you’re not working, what do you do for fun?
Ward: I have a wonderful, amazing family: my husband of 17 years, Darren, and my daughter, Whitney, and son, Cody. Just trying to be creative in how to live our life in the COVID era. I am affiliated with two amazing organizations that keep me fulfilled: Jack and Jill of America, Inc., which is a national organization for African-American women and children to advance our children in a variety of, of competencies around leadership and culture. And I’m also a member of the first African-American sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. I do a lot of work in both of those organizations for my own fulfillment. I also do a lot of reading. Those are just some of the things I do outside of work to try to balance myself.
ABOUT JACKIE WARD
Education: Madison High School, Texas Tech (BA), Loyola University (MA), University of Texas Health Science Center (Doctorate)
Professional: Joined Texas Children’s, 1993; Vice-President of Nursing, Associate Chief Nursing Officer