Maria is a Family Nurse Practitioner and CEO of Hope Wellness Group a nonprofit 501c3 organization.  Hope Wellness Group spearheaded a fundraising project “Pop-Up Grocery Giveaway,” in partnership with Push 365 Event Group. Maria Jefferson-Walker is also a member of the Executive Board of Directors for ISAPN as Treasurer. Maria shared the following about herself.

On June 8th we launched a Go Fund Me to raise money to purchase fresh produce and food to be donated to families and seniors in communities that have been ravaged by destruction.  Many families have lost a loved one, which may have been the breadwinner of their family or their income due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.  To make matters worse, the murder of another black man has brought systemic racism to a boiling point and many of our communities have been destroyed causing more loss of income.

We decided to serve the Auburn-Gresham Community where Father Pfleger allowed us to use the parking lot of St. Sabina. We raised $5000 on the first day and reached our goal of $10,000 in one week. On June 18th, 2020, we served 700 families. We packed bags full of potatoes, onions, apples, bananas, rice, bread, and beer brats. We also gave away diapers to families that needed them.

In black communities, people are having to choose between buying food OR their medication.  Some communities are in food deserts with decreased access to fresh produce. There are so many families that need help TODAY and there are so many people that want to help.  We simply provided that platform. As nurses, we realize it is an honor to serve.

I have been a nurse for over 20 years. I decided to return to school to pursue advanced practice nursing 10 years ago.  The funny thing is that I never planned to practice.  When I returned to school, I was working as an assistant professor at Resurrection University.  I was a part of the Maternal/Child team. My decision to become a nurse practitioner was based on the premise of increasing my marketability as an educator.  That all changed upon working with two female physicians as my preceptors.  They were nurturing, committed to sharing their knowledge to help me grow, and they challenged me. 

When asked what Maria finds most rewarding in her career, she stated, “I find the autonomy of the APRN most rewarding.  I am a visionary and the further I get outside of the box, the happier I am in my practice.  The further I get outside of the box; I am able to be a better mentor.  The further I get outside of the box; I am able to be a better partner in healthcare with my patients.  The further I get outside of the box; I realize that there are no limits on the ways that I can make a difference in the communities I serve.  The further I get outside of the box, helps me find the “Peace in my Passion.”

Healthcare is ever-changing. Maria had this to say about how changes in healthcare affected her career path, “Healthcare cost are exorbitant. Changes in healthcare led me to become an entrepreneur.  As the CEO of Hope Wellness Center, I joined a group of innovative health care providers offering Direct Primary Care (DPC). DPC is a subscription-based model that is an affordable alternative to preventative care, that eliminates the need for insurance to cover primary care services.”

When asked what advice he would share with new APRNs, Maria said, “Join ISAPN, so that you know the law for yourself. Find a mentor with similar interests. I understand ISAPN fights for our profession in Illinois. ISAPN keeps me abreast of the laws regarding practice in Illinois. Because of ISAPN, I have Full Practice Authority in the state of Illinois. Lastly, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and get uncomfortable.  I was very uncomfortable launching a Go Fund Me with a $10,000 goal.  I stepped out on faith and because of believing that I could make a difference, 700 families had food on the table for Father’s Day. “