Caregivers are one of the chief pieces of a child's care, beginning with the parents, and then the wonderful nurses who are with the child and family throughout the treatment process. It's nurses like Tammy that exemplify what it takes to be a nurse of excellence bar none.
Tammy, age 55, was born and raised in Orange County, California, to Mark (an accountant/finance professional) and Marquise (a stay-at-home mom). She has one younger sister, Robin, who is a teacher in California; and a niece, Megan, age 22 and nephew, Jacob, age 18, who Tammy simply adores. She recalled an outstanding childhood and misses her entire family since they all reside in California and she living and working on the East Coast.
Tammy graduated in 1981 from El Modena High School in Orange County, CA, and began pre-med at UC Irvine. After one and a half years, she realized that she would rather be a nurse than a pediatrician because she recognized early on that she wanted to have more patient and family interaction (not as much being a doc). While volunteering as a candy-striper at a local hospital during this time period, she fell in love with nursing and changed course, and courses, since she had to apply and get into a nursing program. That proved some angst because Tammy had to redo her previous coursework, but she persevered (and loved all of it, even the "repeated" course work) and graduated with her BSN from California State University-Long Beach in 1987.
Her first job out of nursing school was at the Miller's Children's Hospital in Long Beach, CA, in general pediatrics. Incidentally, she orientated in Pediatric Oncology, but then was assigned general peds. After awhile, she asked to be transferred to Peds ICU where she honed her skills and loved every minute of her four years there.
Not one to "rest on her laurels," Tammy decided to go back to school to obtain her Masters' of Science in Nursing (MSN); this time going to the East Coast and graduating in 1992 at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA. She concentrated in Pediatric Critical Care and was trained as an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN). (I hope my blogpost readers will now know what all those letters stand after a nurses name now!).
Tammy recalled to pay for all her "new found" education, she worked four jobs at the same time! It's "easy" when you are young, right? Tammy's main job was working at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in the Peds ICU; as an instructor teaching nursing at Temple University; PRN jobs at other local hospitals and teaching once again at Holy Family College in Philly.
Tammy loved her new found city of Philly (way different than California according to Tammy), and loved working in this great city. However, while in grad school, Tammy did a special "preceptorship" or clinical rotation at The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, and lo and behold, a position opened up as a clinical nurse specialist there. Her two day interview resulted in a job offer in July of 1994, so she moved to Washington D. C. to begin a new leg of her nursing journey.
If you ask Tammy, she claims "she's never worked a day in her life" because she loves her job that much. She worked for 12 years in Building #10 taking care of the most critically ill children in the DC Metro area and beyond. By 1996, she volunteered for Camp Fantastic because the NIH is so entrenched, and that the whole concept of sick kids going to camp intrigued Tammy. That first year she only stayed three days, but vowed that the following year, she would stay the entire week. She has not missed a year since then...
Do you see now how a good, no, make that a great nurse, is worth their weight in gold?
Those first years of camp were a huge learning experience for Tammy, beginning as a nurse volunteer. Within a few years she moved into a team leadership position, and then a few years later became the Assistant Medical Coordinator. Nurse Tammy is now the Chief Clinical Nurse Specialist for Camp Fantastic. Her patient screenings begin in April for the August Camp, and wrapping up the entire camp experience goes through September.
The rest of the year, Tammy works as a Scientific Officer for NICHD (NIH) in pediatric trauma and critical illnesses, plus research in those areas. She has held this position since 2006.
Tammy puts her heart and soul into anything she touches, so not only does she do an incredible job with Camp Fantastic, she is also involved with the weekend programs as well. Let's say she has simply fell in love with Special Love, the kids and families they serve, the entire staff and all volunteers. She really is the ultimate caregiver for many, and it's been her greatest joy in life.
In fact, in 2016, Tammy received the very first Light of Love Award bestowed to someone who shows unbelievable passion and stellar commitment to the mission of Special Love, Inc. The entire room was electrofied and standing on their feet when Tammy walked onto the stage to receive this much deserved award. Founders Tom and Sheila Baker were on hand to entrust her with this fine honor, and Tammy told me that she felt so honored and humbled and was blown away by the award itself.
Tammy reflected that this award has been the highlight in her life; that she was recognized and acknowledged for her passion in making a difference doing what she loves best, helping people. This night made her heart soar because her life's work was confirmed in that one moment! HOW-HOW!!
This purple loving gal with over 25 years at The NIH and over 20 years working Camp Fantastic/Special Love declared that she sees the best of humanity on so many fronts which restores her faith in making a difference on a daily basis. It's her life's mission and we cannot thank Tammy enough for what she has done for hundreds of children and their families for all these years.
When I inquired what she does for fun, she mentioned she loves to travel; watch movies and films; and likes to sing with the University of Maryland Student and Community Choir when time permits. She also loves to meet people and hear their stories, because as Tammy knows, everyone has a story to tell. She is a great listener, which when you think about it, makes her one of the best nurses in the world!
BSoleille! The bright side of #CelebratingOthers with Tammy Jenkins!
Below Photos provided by Tammy: first one in the night she won the Light of Love Award with founders Tom and Sheila Baker:
|Christmas Market in Germany 2018|
|Tammy in the camp office|
|Mindy, Tammy and Angela at the Medieval themed camp|
|Random photo with flamingo gear with Nurse K|
|Tammy at the Children's Oncology Camping Association (COCA-con) in Fargo, North Dakota 2018|