There’s never been a more challenging time to be a nurse. Independence Blue Cross (Independence) recognizes their tremendous sacrifices and contributions. For a third year, Independence is proud to honor outstanding nurses in our region through the Celebrate Caring campaign. As part of the campaign, we’re highlighting our winners and finalists and how their bravery, compassion, and dedication has made a difference in the lives of so many, when they needed it the most.
If you ask Michelle Jackson-Ware, RN, BSN, at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), how her nursing journey started, she’ll tell you: “It wasn’t a profession I chose, it’s a profession that chose me.”
Michelle recalled the day that shaped her future — it was a summer day at camp, and the instructor gave each child art supplies and asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up? Whatever you want to be, make it.”
Without giving it any thought, an 11-year-old Michelle constructed a nurse out of cork and felt, making sure to add a little red cross to the hat. From that moment on, she knew she was called to be a nurse.
Finding Her Passion as a Nurse
That pivotal moment propelled Michelle into a successful 35+ year career in nursing. She began her career as a nursing assistant, then moved on to become a nurse recruiter. While working as a nurse recruiter, Michelle focused on recruiting underrepresented, qualified, and talented candidates, which she felt was important. Her goal was to make sure there was a good amount of representation from many different backgrounds in nursing.
“There are patients of color who want to grow up to be nurses and doctors, so it’s important for them to see positive role models who look like them,” she said.
Once she received her bachelor’s degree in nursing, Michelle became an ambulatory nurse, which ignited her passion for taking care of patients and families who were underrepresented.
“I was able to build a relationship with the patients and their families,” she said. “Many of these families were impoverished, and the relationships built allowed the families to share their concerns, which included their living conditions, food insecurity, and financial hardship. I knew I wanted to do something about it.”
The discussions with the families inspired Michelle to take on a new role as the Regional Asthma Care Coordinator for the CHOP Care Network and Community Asthma Prevention Program.
“Asthma is prevalent in West Philadelphia, where many of my patients live,” she said. “In my role, I want to make sure families who live in the community have the resources they need to address barriers and assist them as they navigate through the health care system. I want to help them succeed. I love taking care of my patients and their families.”
Feeding the Community
Driven by her desire to support the community, Michelle has committed to helping others outside of work too. For 22 years, she coordinated and participated in the food distribution program sponsored by her church in West Philadelphia. As the challenges to facilitate the program grew due to the pandemic, she took a step back to reassess how to feed the community and found a way to help address food insecurity — a cause that is close to her heart.
She recently launched her own nonprofit called Feed the People Philly to provide healthy food to the people in West Philadelphia. The food program currently feeds more than 150 families with the help of volunteers.
“Food insecurity is one of the social determinants of health,” Michelle said. “I want to do my part to support families because access to healthy food is important. We need to make sure people have enough food to eat every day.”
Michelle is hopeful that she will find the support to continue running the program. “We’re going to do it,” she said.
Independence is donating $2,500 to nonprofit organizations on behalf of each Celebrate Caring winner. Michelle is using her donation to help her continue her work with Feed the People Philly.