The Whole Picture | Jackie Liebowitz
By Kirsten Cutler
Not many people can trace their career choice back to a clear moment, but when Jackie Liebowitz watched nurses care for her grandfather for two weeks after his heart attack in the 1970s, it made a life-changing impression on her.
“There was a chair that was not too far from his room,” Jackie remembers. “I could sit out there while my mother was in the room with my grandfather, and I would watch the nurses going in and out and caring for him.”
As she watched and interacted with the nurses each day, Jackie felt the hope and comfort they provided. In that moment, she knew: “This is what I want to do.”
The defining moment that led Jackie to become a nurse was only the beginning of a journey full of surprising turns.
Starting in the ER, over the years she experienced cardiology, the cardiac intensive care unit, transplant and trauma. “I loved the complexity,” Jackie shares. “Trying to put the whole clinical picture together to be able to care for this person who is very, very ill – that really motivated me.”
“Trying to put the whole clinical picture together to be able to care for this person who is very, very ill – that really motivated me.”
The path that led her to leadership is as clear in Jackie’s memory as the moment she chose nursing, and it started with a lack of input on the type of equipment she and her colleagues needed to care for patients.
“I said to my boss at the time, ‘This doesn't work. We need something that performs better for us,’” Jackie says. “So she put me on a committee selecting equipment at the hospital at the time, and I really enjoyed being able to have an impact.”
Jackie’s path to leadership ultimately led her to Adventist Health in early 2020, a decision she made after resonating with the faith-based mission of the organization. “What we do in nursing is about physical health, but it's also about mental and spiritual health,” she shares. Coming most recently from a for-profit system, Jackie was eager to get to work – and she had a plan from the start.
“What we do in nursing is about physical health, but it's also about mental and spiritual health.”
“When I come into an organization, my usual is to go to every facility right away, spend time there, learn the leaders, learn the team, understand and appreciate the culture – and I couldn't do that,” Jackie says. “I started with Adventist Health in January 2020 and became System incident commander for the COVID pandemic in February.”
Immediately, Jackie’s priorities and responsibilities – like most everyone else’s in healthcare – shifted considerably.
“The most surprising thing of my career has been COVID, because of how long it has lasted, how ferocious it was,” Jackie shares. “It just had such a horrific impact on our clinicians, on their own personal resiliency, on their morale, and that's probably the hardest thing for me – is to look into the eyes of our clinicians and know what they have had to live through.”
“I believe in development. I believe in mentorship."
Lately, Jackie has been able to return to some of her normal priorities.
“I spend time with nurses at the bedside to understand what they're going through, because I want to impact and support their practice in the best way possible,” Jackie explains. “Some of that is hearing the issues, and some of it you just have to personally experience.”
And for those nurses and caregivers on the frontlines, she has a sincere and clear message.
“Always remember why you went into nursing,” Jackie says. “A lot of days are really tough, and so you just have to go back and remember what happened each day that aligned with why you went into nursing. If you chose nursing to have interactions with patients, did you have a conversation or two with a patient, even if it was only five minutes? Being able to relate to that – because there are a lot of other things that go right and go wrong in a day – really helps keep you grounded.”
As for Jackie, the things that keep her grounded have changed over time and manifest more in others than in herself.
“When I say, ‘These are the goals that I want to accomplish,’ then seeing movement on them – whether that's development of a person or accomplishing something – that gives me a positive boost,” she says. “I believe in development. I believe in mentorship. And when I see somebody that we've been coaching and developing move to the next level, for me, that's just pure joy.”