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Jacqueline Whelan, MN, RN, CNL, director of Care Integration for the Children’s Wisconsin Health Management,

40 under 40: Jacqueline Whelan is changing the way we deliver care

We are proud and honored to announce that Jacqueline Whelan, MN, RN, CNL, director of Care Integration for Children’s Wisconsin Health Management, has been selected as a member of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s “40 under 40” class of 2023. 

Jacqueline began her career at Children’s Wisconsin in 2012 as the revenue cycle project manager for information services. But at the same time, she was also working weekends and evenings as a nurse in our NICU, caring for our most fragile patients. From her earliest days at Children’s Wisconsin, Jacqueline was going above and beyond for our kids. 

In so many ways, Jacqueline is changing the way Children’s Wisconsin delivers care to the kids and families of Wisconsin. From leveraging technology and addressing the social determinants of health, Jacqueline is dedicated to not only improving how care is provided, but also redefining what is considered care. 

When most people think of health, they think of medical care — getting sick and going to the doctor. But the truth is, direct medical care accounts for a small percentage of a person’s overall health. Things like environment, education, economic stability and access to nutritious food — what we call social determinants of health — are far more impactful to one’s wellbeing. Addressing these factors has been the primary focus of Jacqueline’s work at Children’s Wisconsin for more than 12 years.

One key project Jacqueline helped lead was a missed appointment text message campaign to help assess why an appointment was missed. For many families, lack of reliable transportation was a major obstacle. Working with Chorus Community Health Plans (the Children’s Wisconsin affiliated health insurance organization) these families were provided with transportation options to help them get to their appointments. This innovative approach utilized technology to meet families where they are and better understand their barriers to seeking care. Ultimately, those barriers were able to be removed and the families were able to receive the care they needed and deserved. 

Food insecurity and beyond 

Another example of Jacqueline leveraging technology in addressing the social determinants of health is her work with the Nourishing Partners Program. What started in 2016 as a program in our Emergency Department (ED) to provide cafeteria gift cards to families in need, Jacqueline has since helped it develop into a fully integrated, digital system that provides families vital resources. 

Instead of patients in our ED being asked about food insecurity, they’re given an iPad with two short questions: 

Within the last 12 months, have you worried that your food would run out before you got the money to buy more?

Within the last 12 months, did the food you bought not last and you didn’t have money to get more?

When a family answers yes to either of the questions, a note is automatically added to the child’s health record and triggers an alert to the medical team. First, the family is given a $15 meal card for the Children’s Wisconsin cafeteria or cafes. They’re also given a flyer of food resources in Milwaukee County. But the most important step takes place a couple days later, when the family receives a call from an information and referral specialist at the Children’s Wisconsin Daniel M. Soref Family Family Resource Center who helps connect the family to various community resources and organizations.

To date, the Family Resource Center has received more than 4,000 referrals from the Children’s Wisconsin ED. Of those referrals, 936 families requested additional support from referral specialists and 75 percent reported positive outcomes, including being connected to at least one resource.

While food insecurity is the initial trigger, when a referral specialist connects with the family, they often identify additional needs and they’re able to connect them to other resources the family didn’t know existed. By helping families address their social and environmental needs, this multi-disciplinary team — in partnership with community resources and organizations — is able to remove barriers to health. Ultimately, this leads to improved health outcomes, better engagement with preventive care services, and happier, healthier families in our community.

But Jacqueline is not satisfied just helping the families who come to the Children’s Wisconsin ED. She’s shared her learning and expertise with providers throughout Children’s Wisconsin, the community and has presented on food security at Children’s Hospital Association events so that kids and families throughout the country may benefit and achieve optimal health.

Work in the community

Jacqueline is an integrator. She has an innate ability to establish relationships, expand networks and achieve unforeseen outcomes in processes, programmatic development and community engagement. A great example of this ability can be seen in her work combating lead exposure and asthma, two debilitating health concerns among kids, especially in Milwaukee County. Both are in large part the result of an unsafe environment and require complex cooperation to address. Jacqueline has been a community leader in addressing both, working with her team of advocates to advance patient education, implement pro-active outreach capabilities and improve overall health.

Despite all her responsibilities and successes at Children’s Wisconsin, Jacqueline still finds time to make a difference outside of work. Two years ago, she added the role of professor to the many hats she wears. And as expected, she has turned it into an opportunity for change. As an adjunct professor at Alverno College, she is training future nursing professionals. She is also supporting opportunities for nursing students to shadow and complete required hours in addressing population health. As the demand for nurses increases, it is critical to have people step up like Jacqueline to teach the next generation of nurses. 

She also serves as Board President of Caneille Regional Development Fund (CRDF), a nonprofit that supports a primary and secondary school in rural Haiti. Jacqueline has served for four years, sponsoring fundraising activities, hosting informational sessions and community outreach to promote opportunities through education in Haiti.

Jacqueline regularly serves her community in volunteerism events including the Milwaukee Diaper Mission, meal distribution at the Children’s Wisconsin Midtown and Next Door Pediatrics in partnership with Upstart Kitchen, Boys & Girls club, Ronald McDonald House, United Way’s: My Very Own Library and numerous others.

Jacqueline serves as a partner of Milwaukee Health Care Partnership, a Milwaukee consortium dedicated to improving health care for low-income underserved populations. Jacqueline specifically plays a role as a trusted partner in addressing community problems, including but not limited to combatting housing insecurity, addressing the lead crisis, and implementation of a successful community information exchange.

Living our mission and values

Jacqueline epitomizes the Children’s Wisconsin values of integrity, accountability and transparency. Jacqueline uses her deep expertise in the industry, as well as her innovative way of thinking, to drive change and transform the way Children’s Wisconsin provides care for kids. Her motivation to do the right thing for the patients, families, providers and communities we serve drives every decision she makes.

Jacqueline has overcome one obstacle after another in advocating for children and families in this community. Her passion is strong, her drive is admirable, and she has an innate ability to cultivate trusted relationships. Jacqueline takes each opportunity as a challenge in knocking down silos, creating integration, reducing fragmentation and overcoming barriers. Much like the patients and families she relentlessly advocates for, Jacqueline’s focus at Children’s Wisconsin is often faced with significant constraints, barriers and complexities. And just like those families, Jacqueline is resilient and refuses to give up.

For profiles of Jacqueline and all the “40 under 40” class of 2023, please visit the Milwaukee Business Journal website