Why I Became a Nurse

Jean Blake

Jean Barrett Blake, BSN, MJ,
Chief Nursing Officer,
University Hospitals

Jean Barrett Blake, BSN, MJ, Chief Nursing Officer, University Hospitals, has an easy answer when asked why she became a nurse: several of her relatives were nurses and she wanted to emulate them.

But the real reason has more deeply personal roots. Jean was born extremely premature, wore glasses as a toddler, underwent multiple surgeries and was hospitalized many times. For extended periods of time in her early years, she interacted with and was influenced by nurses. "The nurses were always kind and took good care of me," she recalls. "The compassion they displayed made me interested in being a nurse." Even at a young age, she could hardly wait to start tending to the sick.

"My mom told me that when I was 4 years old, I asked Santa for a doll that threw up," she remembers.

After high school, she immersed herself in a BSN program at college and accepted a job in the Chicago area as an ICU nurse. She was quickly promoted to supervisor and eventually the director of the unit. After that, Jean moved into an ambulatory setting, earned a law degree and began focusing on nursing leadership roles in clinical operations, patient care services and patient access. She appreciates the diversity of these experiences and the impact they've made on her professional life.

"Being a nurse prepares you for a lot of potential opportunities in life," she says. "With enough variety, you discover you can take on just about anything. You must be brave and try new things – you don't necessarily have to follow a traditional path."

Jean firmly believes the various roles she's undertaken throughout her career have all helped her to understand the business of healthcare more fully, resulting in processes to improve workflow, quality and the patient experience. Above all, she's grateful for her colleagues in all disciplines who work together to enhance care.

"Medicine is a team sport," she says. "We must work together to take care of our patients. Nurses are the glue in the healthcare team, always advocating for their patients."

Nurses like Jean hold a special place in all of our hearts. Honor them by making a gift to the Professional Nursing Education fund to help enhance their knowledge and skills to advance patient care at UH.