Portria Jackson’s early career days were filled with the black-and-white: numbers, records, files. Days lined up like endless data. All the churning mechanics of financial analysis. See, before Jackson left her former home in Jamaica and came to America, she worked as an accountant. But amid this desk job, she felt led to serve and help people in need. “But no one wanted an accountant to take care of them,” she says, laughing. So she entered the health care industry.
When she first arrived in the U.S., she worked as a health aide, and from there, became a CNA. Then her son went off to attend college—Yale University, no less—and she returned to school to become an LPN. Jackson first encountered Consulate Health Care during her clinical rotation at Harbor Beach Nursing and Rehabilitation in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
After graduating as valedictorian of her LPN class, she returned to Harbor Beach and served as interim director of nursing, a mere three weeks after passing her RN boards. After this, she served as interim assistant director of nursing (ADON) at Hillcrest, and from there, landed the job of staff development coordinator and infection control nurse. Most recently, Jackson has accepted an ADON position at Franco Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
From the outside, Jackson’s transition into a nursing career may appear seamless, but it proved an unpredictable road from the beginning. Right after passing her boards, Jackson planned to celebrate. However, Hurricane Irma had other ideas. Jackson says she gathered her things, packed a bag, and prayed. Harbor Beach had to evacuate all residents—59 beds—and temporarily relocate to Coral Bay.
Like a pilot navigating a plane through turbulent weather, Jackson remained composed enough to keep residents calm during an otherwise frightening and uncertain experience. Chuckling about it now, she recounts: “I was scared, but I didn’t let them know it!” Ultimately, she says providing care during this time was a “heartwarming” experience, and she raves about the “marvelous” dedication and kindness of Coral Bay’s staff. Despite the urgency and unfamiliar territory, Jackson proudly reports that there were no falls throughout, and everyone stayed healthy and safe. Only in retrospect does Jackson now realize the true momentousness of their task.
Despite Jackson’s undeniable work ethic, drive, and impressive accomplishments, it’s easy to see that underneath it all lies a humble heart. Throughout our interview, she continually gave credit to her personal faith, as well as the “inspiring” mentors she has met throughout her journey at Consulate Health Care. In particular, she emphasized her gratitude for Adela Baldo, Executive Director at Coral Bay, Peggy Moses, Regional Director of Clinical Services, and her fellow nurses, all of whom she refers to as her “heroes.”
Jackson’s sense of humility goes hand-in-hand with one of our core values: integrity. When asked about how she embodies this trait, Jackson recounts a story of washing a resident’s feet. A therapist walked into the room and didn’t understand why Jackson felt the need to perform this extra act of kindness, as it was never in her job description. But Jackson says, “When you sign up as a caregiver or health care worker, that’s what you sign up to do first and foremost. Give care.”
The parallels between this anecdote and that of ancient biblical teachings is no coincidence. Jackson says that while her love for the residents motivates her each day, her spiritual faith is the thread stitching her life together. She believes that her story “would not be possible without God,” and made certain we included that piece of her journey in this article. Jackson feels “humbled and grateful” to be featured in this week’s CHIRP Spotlight, and would like to thank Consulate for allowing her the opportunity to grow and Todd Mehaffey for the recognition.