How a Sharp director keeps making her grandma proud

By Matt Eisenberg | May 2, 2024
Nicole Ward

When Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center announced it was opening a multimillion-dollar Ocean View Tower, Wilma L. Clarke joked to her granddaughter, Nicole Ward, that she wanted a name on a building.

“She was always proud that I worked at Sharp,” says Nicole, who started at Sharp HealthCare in 2015 as a clinical nurse specialist and has since worked her way up to director of the staffing resource network. “She told everybody that I ran the hospital when I wasn’t.”

Still, Nicole looked up to her grandmother and wanted to fulfill that wish. In doing so, she showed exactly what it means to lead by example.

As an employee donor, she named a changing room for actors in the James S. Brown Simulation Center after her grandmother who passed away in 2018, two years before the Ocean View Tower opened.

“It’s so fitting her name is going to be where actors change, she would’ve gotten a big kick out of that,” Nicole says. “She had always said it was her dream to be an actress one day, but that didn’t happen.”

A grandmother’s legacy

Wilma immigrated to the U.S. from Panama when she was 12 years old, but instead of arriving in Hollywood like she had hoped, she wound up in New York.

“She took the wrong boat,” Nicole says with a laugh.

Wilma emphasized the importance of education to her daughters and granddaughters, and that was instilled in Nicole from a young age. Wilma beamed with pride when Nicole earned her bachelor’s degree and her master’s degree.

“Before she passed, she made me promise that I’ll get my doctorate,” Nicole says.

Nicole Ward

Support from Sharp HealthCare

Nicole had worked for several different health care organizations in San Diego before arriving at Sharp. One of the many things that appealed to her was Sharp’s commitment to philanthropy and awareness for social issues in the community.

“We do a lot for schools and in supporting our equity alliance with LGBTQ and Juneteenth,” Nicole says. “It’s super important to participate in those things. Sharp supported us.”

There are a few special career milestones Nicole recalls at Sharp, including when her entire unit at Sharp Chula Vista was recognized with a Guardian Angel award.

In 2022, she was also part of the COVID-19 community vaccination clinic team that won the Pillar of Excellence Award, a group that created an appointment scheduling platform and ultimately administered more than 700,000 vaccinations.

“It’s about fulfilling that pact as a caregiver serving the community,” Nicole says. “What way better to do that than to help grow Sharp?"

Giving back as an employee

Committed to Sharp HealthCare’s vision to be the best place to work, practice medicine, receive care — and give, Nicole started by occasionally donating some of her earned paid time off, as well as participating in walks supporting the American Heart Association or contributing money for a cause so she could receive a T-shirt.

“Every dollar counts, so it’s not about how much you give,” Nicole says. “It’s that there are so many ways you can give.”

Nicole’s ability to lead by example rubs off on her staff, especially when it comes to philanthropic efforts. She facilitates community drives and turns altruism into a competition between shifts and groups to drive more donations.

As an employee donor supporting the Foundations of Sharp HealthCare for the past two years, Nicole plans to make another donation in honor of her grandmother: a room in the Sharp Chula Vista intensive care unit.

“You don’t have to be a millionaire to donate,” she says. “You can start with a T-shirt or donating your time. It adds up.”

Learn more about ways to support ENVISION and participate in Employee Giving.

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