Sometimes to get where you want to go in life, you have to take a step back before you move forward. This realization set Nicholas Green on the path to where he is today.

Ten years ago, Green, now age 40, was a college grad with a successful full-time management job and a beautiful family to boot. But something critical was missing: a quality work-life balance and the fulfillment that comes with it.

Green was motivated to make a change, and an employment listing at Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center piqued his interest. It’s not a job many people with his resume would consider: A part-time, second-shift housekeeper. Plus, he’d have to keep his full-time job.

But Green knew this long-term career investment could set him on the path to where he wanted to be. And it worked.

Today, Green is the clinic administrator for Wilmington’s first Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic, which opens in April with the goal to improve health care access for Wilmington’s underserved community members. Years of hard work and hustle got him here, along with the help and support of important mentors and loved ones.

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‘Some things are more important than just working.’

After earning an undergraduate degree from Fayetteville State University in 2006, Green worked as a psychiatric technician and later as a program coordinator for a behavioral healthcare company. That’s where he discovered his talent for working with patients on life skills like planning goals, managing triggers and developing coping strategies.

Six years in, he accepted a role as operations manager for an early childhood daycare and preschool. He was excelling, but his work-life balance was suffering. And changes in his family compelled Green to be more present for them. Green’s mother was diagnosed with brain cancer. He was missing out on time with her, as well quality time with his wife, Tinisha, and their three children: Alexis, Nicholas and Donovan.

All this brought him to a life-altering realization: “Some things are more important than just working.”

Motivated to change, Green began looking for career opportunities that weren’t just a “job,” but an avenue for personal and professional growth, and improved balance.

“I was trying to figure out a way to give my family a better life,” he said.

That’s when the part-time job in the environmental services department at New Hanover Regional Medical Center came along. His mother received care at the hospital, and he’d seen the impact her medical team made. Plus, the job had opportunities for advancement and tuition reimbursement. Green applied for and accepted the job. But things got a lot harder before they got easier.

An uphill journey

Leaders at the hospital were quick to spot Green’s potential.

“They encouraged me to apply for some different full-time careers, to venture out,” he said.

Green accepted a full-time role as environmental services coordinator, working second shift, while still working first shift at the daycare. One year later, he advanced to the position of patient transport coordinator. He also began earning his first master’s degree, in executive leadership. Sleep was a rare commodity.

Green credits the late Jerome Singletary, former environmental services operations manager, for supporting him when the demands of work, school and family were heavy. Singletary passed away in February, and Green remembers him as an influential mentor and advisor in his life.

“Some nights, I wouldn't have made it without my manager,” Green said. “He really had my back. He was someone that I could talk to about anything, and he would give me the feedback that I needed to hear, not necessarily that I wanted to hear. He did it in such a way that I knew it was going to be OK.”

Finally, the moment he was waiting for – in 2018, Green accepted the role of environmental services operations manager, where he began leading a department of more than 100. Lee Mosley, director of environmental services at the hospital, recognized Green’s leadership capabilities and promoted him into the position. Under Mosley’s mentorship, Green embraced his new management role.

“We first began our journey by working to understand the needs of his people,” Mosley said. “This is not an easy task for some. Nick began to slow down and listen, which opened him up to a great deal of compassion for others.”

With the promotion, Green could resign from his job at the daycare. He completed his master’s degree in 2019. One full-time job instead of two gave him more time with his family.

But another shoe was waiting to drop: COVID-19. Housekeeping always has a key function in infection prevention, but during the pandemic it played an even greater role as COVID spread across the country. He embraced the role and wanted to ensure his team was creating a sense of peace and calm for every patient.

“We needed to give patients the best environment – a safe, clean environment – to heal in,” he said. “COVID really put a spotlight on how important that is.”

Green saw his team members care for patients in ways that went well beyond cleaning. Family visitation was limited, so Green’s team spent more time singing to patients, asking them about their children or talking with them about church.

“Environmental services has a special place in the hospital because they also help connect with people,” he said.

While managing the team, Green earned his second master’s degree, an MBA in health care administration, and completed a nine-month leadership program at the hospital. It wasn’t easy, he said, but with the support of his wife, whom he credits with helping him reach his goals, and his leadership mentors and cohorts, he soon set his sights on his next career advancement.

Wilmington’s first Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic

In 2021, Michael Jordan donated $10 million through the Novant Health Foundation to open two medical clinics in Wilmington in partnership with Novant Health. The specific goal: to bring comprehensive primary care, including behavioral health and social support services, to the area’s most vulnerable communities.

When the role of clinic administrator became available, Green saw an opportunity that spoke to his heart. While working at the hospital, he gained a firsthand understanding of how consistent, quality health care is central to a person’s quality of life. And at the Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic, he knew he could help break down the barriers to care that many families face.

“To be able to be a pioneer or to be one of the conductors that helped transform the way we deliver health care here in our community – I mean, who wouldn't want to be a part of that?” Green said. “The opportunity was there, and I thought, ‘I can make a huge impact in the community.’”

Mosley saw the job was a great fit and encouraged Green to take it on headfirst. “I assured him that this was what he was meant to do, helping the community,” Mosley said.

The clinic is under construction on Greenfield Street, across the street from the Houston Moore neighborhood. It’s slated to open its doors later this spring. Green is responsible for a wide range of responsibilities to ensure the clinic is all-inclusive and serves the community’s needs. Recently expanded Medicaid in North Carolina will help more people gain access to comprehensive services.

“We’re not just going to be taking care of just your physical health. We’re looking at the whole person,” he said.

It’s a big task, breaking ground, literally and figuratively, with the first clinic of its kind in Wilmington. But Green’s not one to shy away from the hard stuff.

“There are scary aspects of it,” he said. “But I mean, that's how you grow. You don't grow by sitting on the sidelines and waiting until it’s safe.”

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