Meet #MoxieNurse Jeri Ford, RN, BSN, CPN

Meet #MoxieNurse Jeri Ford, RN, BSN, CPN

Recently rooted travel nurse with a passion for pediatrics, Jeri Ford, RN, BSN, CPN is a 9-year nursing veteran currently working at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. A former travel nurse, she has always dedicated herself to her field and exudes a compassion for her patients. She is a true #MoxieNurse! Jeri shares her journey into nursing and how her grandmother, a nurse herself, played an important role in where she is today. She is the co-founder of Baby Whisperers, a private baby nursing company, and has a passion for transplant and renal children.

Q: How did you know that nursing was the right path for your future?

Jeri Ford: I have known I wanted to work with children since I was a child myself. I didn’t know that it would be specifically nursing, but I always knew it would be children. 

My grandma was a nurse, and for a long time I thought I wanted to be a pediatrician. Then, I thought about teaching. I explored everything. While I was in my nursing program, I found myself in pediatrics. I just remember it feeling like everything else fell away and it just clicked for me and that was it. I was going to be a nurse.

I always think back to a conversation someone had with me at my grandmother’s funeral. They had been one of my grandmother’s patients and had expressed to me that they “wouldn’t be here today” if it weren’t for my grandma. That spoke volumes to me and influenced my decision to continue on my nursing journey. I wanted that connection. I think the connection that nurses get to have with their patients and their families is what sets nurses apart. Doctors are wonderful, but I do not feel like they get quite the connection and that is what I was looking for. I always want to feel fulfilled and passionate for what I do.

Q: After being a nurse for 9 years are you still fulfilled? Are you still as passionate about it now as you were when you said, I want to do this?

Jeri Ford: Yes. What is amazing about nursing is that if you feel as though you are no longer being fulfilled, there are a million other avenues that you can take and explore. I absolutely love that. I mean, that is how I started in my business in the first place. 

That is why traveling kept me going for so long, because it was something new and different. I remember in college, one of our awesome nursing professors said; “The amazing thing about nurses, is that some of you are not just nurses. All of you are going to do something in your career that is more than that. You are going to be a legal nurse. You are going to be this and that, all these things.”

I remember at the time thinking I was not really sure. Here I am nine years later, I am like, “oh my gosh, I have done this. I have done that.” I do not think it is hard not to be fulfilled as long as you stay proactive and explore all your different avenues.

Q: What is the best part of your day?

Jeri Ford: A typical day? The kiddos! They are funny. They crack me up every single day. They are some of the sickest kids on the unit and they are cracking jokes. It just fulfills me to my soul. They teach me more than I feel like I could ever teach them. They are really amazing and have so much strength! I just don’t have the words to describe it. 

Q: How do you deal with the parents of these extremely sick children? 

Jeri Ford: I do not have kids and I get that question a lot. I think that adds a layer to it, too. But I have a cousin who passed away from a brain tumor. I feel like I am in a unique position in that I see my cousin’s struggle with certain things from both a nurse and a patient perspective. Being a nurse, I see the difference of what one little thing would have made. I can use it in my practice.  

I feel like it all comes down to just communication. So many things get lost.

Nurses are the advocate between the families and the doctors. We feel like everything falls to us. I feel like a parent feels calm with you if you are the one explaining to them why procedures happen the way they do. I honestly think it all stems down to learning how to talk to parents.

Q: Our Moxie Squad concept was developed for nurses like you who want to give back. #MoxieNurses continue to reach out to their circle and extend that reach to new grads to offer support and guidance. It was clear to us that you are all about giving back. How do you find the time?

Jeri Ford: The one thing that I love to do is mentoring the younger nurses because I feel like there is only so much nursing school teaches you. There is so much they do not teach you. My education has really been in the workforce and I feel like it would have been so beneficial to have had a mentor when I started. So, I love doing that.

Q: What was the inspiration behind the launching of Baby Whisperers in 2019 with a fellow travel nurse?

Jeri Ford: My co-founder and I, both travel nurses at the time, worked our first new grad job together in Indianapolis and that is how we met originally. We have gone to some of the same places as travelers, but we have pretty much kept the same career path and kept in touch and are good friends. She originally got into baby nursing, where she worked for a family who needed help.

I remember we sat down and had dinner here in Los Angeles and I asked her to tell me how it went. She did not have a pleasant experience, and I remember sitting there and thinking this is something we can do to help other nurses. We obviously want to help families. But I remember thinking there is an opportunity for us to help nurses so that others don't have to experience what had happened to my friend.

The idea just kind of blossomed from there. Moms do not get enough education when they have a baby. They are just kind of like, “here is the baby, have a good time.” We see it in the hospital all the time. A lot of new parents have large support systems, but that is not always the case with everyone.

There are so many moms who this is the first time they've held a baby. Same for the dads. We asked ourselves how we can help these families, educate them, and be there for them. We want to empower them to take care of their own child, know they're doing a good job, and to not feel judged. Our goal is to help match families with nurses and to help facilitate the process better so that it is a happy experience for everybody.

Q: What kind of message would you give to the Moxie nurses on our platform?

Jeri Ford: My message is always keep learning. Always advocate for your patients and always follow what interests you and your passions. 

Q: Tell us about your travel nurse experience?

Jeri Ford: I have settled down a little bit, especially during the pandemic. Obviously I cannot be doing the traveling that I was doing, but I love exploring new places. I love learning. I love seeing other people’s ways of life. That is why I was a traveler for almost eight years! Not only the travel aspect, but travel nursing makes you a much more well-rounded nurse. I have grown so much as a nurse. 

Q: How has life and your job been impacted by COVID-19?

Jeri Ford: Nurses are experiencing burnout. Even if kids are not as sick as adults, we are feeling the impact of that. We are taking care of older patients, the overflow. We are still definitely feeling it. We are burning out more quickly. It’s almost like the pandemic took off the band-aid that was holding together all of the stress and burnout, it was just ripped off and we needed to take a look in the mirror and say to ourselves, “are you fulfilled?” Do we love our jobs, or do we need something else? I feel a lot of nurses are feeling this way.

Q: So how do you unwind after a horrible shift?

Jeri Ford: I have been so lucky that I have family. I call my family back in Indianapolis, but I have an L.A. family here too. Thank God for them, honestly. I feel like I have focused more on the little things than ever before. I was a traveling maniac and still hope to get back to that someday. Traveling was my stress relief.

I’ve had to really come back to grips and see what I can do during this time to help keep myself destressed. I love the beach. Thank goodness I live by a beach! I do not know what I would have done without the beach.

Q: You made the comment that you love your transplant babies and families, can you tell us more? Why are they so different from the other patients that you have cared for?

Jeri Ford: Oh man, that is so funny because my first job as a new grad just happened to be in a transplant unit. It sounded the most interesting to me. I joke that transplant keeps finding me. I remember leaving that job to start traveling and I did not know if I would ever do a transplant again. It was really hard.

Somedays, I am not sure that I will ever do transplant again. But when I went to all the different hospitals I somehow ended up working for different transplant units.

The unit that I work on now in Los Angeles is transplant. I must love them. I keep finding my way back to them. I love the resiliency. I mean, they go through so much and I am passionate about it because I do not think that the world knows. I think the world knows there are sick children. I think the world knows that there are sick children with cancer, like my cousin. I do not think they know that kids even get transplants, so I'm passionate about spreading the word because these parents go through a lot. The back and forth. The ups and downs. It is crazy. However, if I can help the kids and the parents, I am there.  

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Jeri wears the Ashley Top in Navy Blue.