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CareersStoriesFrom bedside care to breakthrough cancer treatments: A nurse’s journey
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From bedside care to breakthrough cancer treatments: A nurse’s journey

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What stands out the most for registered nurse (RN) Michelle Ford about working in New York during the height of the pandemic? “I found out I was pregnant with my first child during the first week that COVID-19 hit,” she recalled. “But I didn’t quit, I didn’t stop, I just kept going.” For National Nurses Month, step inside her life-saving work to learn more about her experience, why she joined our team—and how you, too, can help change the future of health for good.

Reflections From the Front Lines

“Every floor of this hospital Is filled”

Prior to the pandemic, Michelle had been working in a hospital, where she specialized in apheresis—a process in which blood is withdrawn from the body, separated out into individual components and then returned to the donor.

As such, her work was far removed from the hue and cry of, say, your average New York City emergency room.

“I was part of a procedural unit providing inpatient and outpatient care,” Michelle explained. But then, everything about her routine was about to be turned upside down seemingly overnight.

Here’s Michelle: “When COVID-19 hit and everything shut down in New York, it was suddenly an all-hands-on-deck situation, and everyone rallied. Everyone immediately got involved from all areas of medicine. For example, my unit basically just set out to help in any way we thought we possibly could. We’d go work in the emergency department. We’d go help out at the pharmacy. We’d being going from floor to floor.”

Which is when she realized: “Every floor of this hospital is filled with COVID-19 patients. There are no longer any other patients here.”

It was a scary time.

Outside of the hospital, for instance, Michelle remembers seeing “two of those freezer trucks"—essentially, temporary morgues brought in by a city unprepared to process death on this scale.

“Those trucks were parked right out front of the main entrance to the hospital, so you couldn’t miss them. If you walked between buildings on the sky-bridge and looked, you would see them. They were hard to ignore.”

Meanwhile, perhaps due to the sheer magnitude of the challenge, a strong sense of solidarity developed between Michelle and her fellow front-line health workers.

“We definitely became more protective and nurturing toward one another,” she remembered. “I felt like we were looking out for each other in a different way than we had in the past. Just simple things like making sure everyone had a safe space to take a break, walking with one another to the subway at the end of a shift or taking time to ask how everyone’s family was doing. The little things mattered.”

Together, they each did their part—and collectively, their efforts positively impacted the health outcomes of countless people’s lives.

ONE RN’s decision to Make a greater Impact

“I’m working at the forefront of medicine”

With the arrival of Michelle’s son—and the pandemic finally appearing to wane—Michelle felt like she had a choice to make. Could she really continue to put in such long hours at the hospital if it meant time away from her son?

So when she learned of a new opportunity to join the Global Cell Collection team and support CAR-T at Johnson & Johnson, she leapt at it.

“I’m training hospital sites on the apheresis collection and cryopreservation process for CAR-T,” Michelle explained.

The collection and cryopreservation process is part of our breakthrough therapy for multiple myeloma, a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell.

As Michelle elaborated, “I’m helping to create these amazing personalized medicines, and I feel like I’m still right there in the mix, even though I’m not in a hospital setting per se, because I’m maintaining this direct connection with nurses and physicians. I mean, I’m interacting with them every day. It truly was a big decision for me to leave bedside nursing. But I think the best part about being at Johnson & Johnson is that I get to take the expertise I developed in a hospital setting and apply it in a new way—and I still feel like I’m doing meaningful, valuable and purposeful work.”

Meanwhile, being a relative newcomer to pharmaceutical space, Michelle says she has benefitted from the mentorship opportunities offered. In Michelle’s case, that has meant being paired with one of our data scientists, Christel Chehoud—a good example of the cross-functional collaboration that’s central to everything we do at Johnson & Johnson.

In a hospital, the patients are right in front of you, so it’s true that you get to see the immediate impact that you’re making. But now, in my work at Johnson & Johnson, I feel like I have an opportunity to not only help individual patients, but to positively impact the lives of thousands. “Working in a hospital, the reality is that it takes a long time to make change happen. But now, I feel like I’m working at the forefront of medicine—and helping to shape the future of healthcare.
Michelle Ford
CAR-T Cell Collection Operations Manager

Ready to join Michelle today?

If you’re eager to team up with Michelle—and apply your unique skills and expertise to help us change the trajectory of health for good—we want to meet you! Check out all of the roles we’re hiring for at Johnson & Johnson today.

And one more thing before you go: You should join our global talent community, too. It’s a great way to stay in touch and learn more about our mission, values and culture. Plus, you can also sign up to receive updates about jobs that might interest you in the future.

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