When we hear tales of soldiers, we rarely hear of their success stories once they leave the military. While Captain Cherissa Jackson put in over two decades of full-time duty in the U.S. Air Force saving lives, she still found time to get a degree in nursing and raise a family. She retired from the military, but rather than calling it a day, she got a second wind and started her own company as a professional Nursing Consultant. Jackson now provides her expertise to lawyers and insurance companies to solve major cases like medical malpractice suits.
Jackson & Associates is thriving, but Cherissa is determined to take her bold perspective on life and work to the world in new ways. We caught up with this gracious, inspiring woman to find out more about her unique business, why she values “service over self”, and how she balances motherhood with career.
What initially inspired and influenced you to go into nursing as a career?
Cherissa Jackson: I was inspired by the nurses who actually cared for my twin daughters after their birth. It was like a light bulb had been turned on when I saw their passion and dedication to their job responsibilities. At that time, I was a logistics officer for the Air Force, ordering maintenance parts for the C17 and C141 aircrafts. I wasn’t challenged by my role as a supervisor, and I knew my intention for coming into the military was to obtain my Bachelor’s Degree.
I had to fulfill that goal, and that day while recovering from a C-section, I began my journey to getting my Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing through more talks with the nurses and inquiries online.
How did going into the military affect your nursing career, for better or worse? Did the two careers go hand-in-hand?
CJ: Well, my path was a tough one. I was enlisted and had many years left before I could get out of the military. Every location I had been assigned, I took classes intentionally to fulfill the nursing prerequisites to apply for a nursing program. I had gone to four different universities at four different locations (new assignments) trying to obtain all the required courses.
Finally, after nine years in the military, nine years of marriage, a divorce, and twin daughters, I applied to the Medical University of South Carolina and got accepted on my first attempt. I re-enlisted into the Air Force for financial stability. So that meant I had to work for the military at night, and I went to nursing school in the day. Once I graduated, the Air Force commissioned me and accepted me into their Nurse Transitioning Program.
The path was tough, but I overcame. It was the military that provided me the avenue to have financial security for me and my daughters, and later propelled my nursing career. I’ve trained with the best nurses, doctors and surgeons imaginable. I can say concretely the training I received as an Air Force nurse prepared me for my four deployments – three to combat hospitals.
How much education did you get before and during your time in the military? Was the Air Force supportive of your career growth afterward?
CJ: I enlisted into the military shortly after my high school graduation. I received all of my collegiate education while on active duty in the Air Force. The educational assistance that the military provided was fantastic, and the military encouraged my higher education. In many cases, it’s a requirement at certain ranks that you must have a college degree. The Air Force supported my desire to become a nurse because they saw the need to produce trained nurses.
At what point did lawyers and clients start seeking you out as an expert in medical malpractice, workers comp claims, etc.? How did that all transpire?
CJ: After my last deployment to Afghanistan, I made a promise to myself and God that if I got home safe and sound and intact, that I would start my own business. I noticed over my 14 year span as a nurse, many times I was the nurse sought after for advice or recommendations for patient care. I was the go-to nurse for difficult cases or many times the supervisor in command because of my plethora of nursing experience.
It just made sense to merge the two careers, as I had been doing it anyways. Consulting with attorneys is different, but the outcome is still the same: leveraging my experience as a critical care, trauma, emergency medicine, recovery, orthopedic and vascular nurse to consult on medical related cases.
What is the best thing about your job day to day? What do you look forward to most?
CJ: The best thing about my job is being able to consult with attorneys, and helping them discover problems within their cases. It’s the discovery that keeps me going for hours and hours trying to find chart errors, standards of practice mishaps, deficiencies in protocols and standards of care.
What I look forward to the most is being that advocate for the client and getting justice for their injuries. It’s not about finding fault, it’s about prevention; and if my findings prevent another client from facing the same outcome, my job was done.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had in your career thus far?
CJ: The biggest challenge has been my work / life balance. Because I’m so dedicated and a go-getter, I work until I’m numb and exhausted. My motto is “Service before Self” and I work extremely hard to ensure client satisfaction and I meet deadlines in a timely fashion.
To overcome this, I have to give myself a “time-out” where during that time, I must do something totally unrelated to the business: shopping, gym, meditate, and volunteer. This allows me to regroup, and refocus. I return more energized and more determined.
If someone wanted to follow in your footsteps, what is the most helpful piece of advice you could give them?
CJ: My one desire in all that I do is to motivate, inspire and encourage. I believe when you provide service to others and it’s a selfless act, the universe will reward you with countless blessings. I try to stay committed to helping others and forming relationships in the hopes that I can help them along the way.
My advice would be to stay genuine, stay focus, know that nothing is impossible, and to not be afraid to follow your dreams. Stay persistent and committed to your goals.
What do you want people to know most about you at this stage of your life and career?
CJ: I believe I’m unstoppable. I’m retired after 23 years of active duty service, and feel like I can conquer the world. I’m very proud for having a successful military career; I’m proud to be a single mother with great, beautiful daughters who are Juniors in college; I’m proud to be a first generation business owner; and I’m proud of me just being ME, and being an overcomer and survivor.
I believe in giving back to the community, and fostering relationships and networks intended to uplift and inspire anyone I meet. I’ve survived four deployments and because of that, I know my life’s purpose has not reached its full potential. I have more to do. I have more people to touch. I have things to do to impact this world. I have to create a legacy for my daughters. Jackson & Associates will do all this plus more. Watch out World, Cherissa is coming!
Find out more about Cherissa Jackson’s work at JacksonNurseConsultants.com, and follow her on Twitter @CJCherissa and at Facebook.com/JacksonNurseConsultants. You can also CLICK HERE to connect with her on LinkedIn.