Learning, leadership and love of nursing
She’s the Director of Nursing and Clinical Services at Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC). She oversees nursing portfolios and nursing clinical education, working with her team to develop and implement standards, goals, policies and procedures to ensure standards of nursing care are met. Her goals are to improve quality care and decrease risk, while ensuring continuity and consistency of care delivery and effective use of resources.
Melissa is a graduate of the BScN collaborative program run by Georgian and York University, having completed two years of study at each institution.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Gravenhurst and Bracebridge. I moved to Barrie and Toronto for school, then back to Muskoka for work. I’m now raising my family in Bracebridge.
I completed the collaborative BScN program in 2007. In 2008, I got my Critical Care certificate. I completed my Master in Nursing (MN) in 2017.
What motivates you?
What motivated me when I started nursing is very different from what motivates me now.
When I first graduated, I was motivated to learn everything I needed to know to care for the patients I was responsible for. As I continued, I was motivated by new challenges in the ICU. Now, in my current role, I would say I’m highly motivated to improve quality patient care and help to develop strong nursing teams.
However, the constant has always been learning. Nursing is a profession of continued learning and not a day goes by that I don’t learn something new.
What challenges did you overcome to get where you are?
There’s a lot involved in going back to school and working full time with young kids. You kind of feel guilty that you’re not giving your work 100% or that you’re not spending enough time with the kids.
There are also challenges with having young kids and working shift work. Daycare doesn’t always fall at the right time. Sometimes you leave on an ambulance transfer at 4 p.m. and you get back at 9 p.m.
I was really lucky because I had a lot of support. We had a live-in caregiver when my kids were little and my parents helped out a lot. They went to daycare once in a while. But when I was doing my MN, at least once a week I would start my homework at 8 p.m. and wouldn’t be done until 11 p.m. – sometimes 2 a.m.
To become a leader, I had to overcome my own doubts. I'd ask myself, “Can I be a leader?” I didn’t think this was where my career would take me. But I was looking for a bit of a change and a challenge. At the time, the position also fit better with my home life balance, as my kids were young.
I didn’t anticipate falling in love with leadership and enjoying the position so much that I would develop the drive to pursue further career growth. It was the best decision I made.
What are your greatest achievements?
My greatest achievements are my family, very supportive husband, two amazing children and three stepchildren.
Demonstrating to my kids that lifelong learning is so important and that change and pushing yourself further is worth it. Demonstrating that trying new things, even when you may fail, is important.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
I wanted to be in a profession where I was helping people. Nursing is in my family. My mom is a nurse, my two aunts and a cousin as well.
I love that there are limitless opportunities to continue to challenge yourself. You can change the type of patient, from medical to chemo, ICU, cardiac or neuro. You can change units and go from caring for a wide range of patients to something very specialized. You can switch from caring for an adult population to caring for neonates.
A nursing degree also provides a great foundation to move in other paths such as research, policy development, leadership, teaching or even legal consulting.
Why do you think the new BScN program is needed?
I loved the faculty at Georgian. It felt like a family. The professors really looked out for me and pushed me to work my hardest.
To have a full BScN program at Georgian is amazing news for our area. It creates access and opportunity for more students to pursue a nursing degree.
Having to transition to another school halfway through your degree is difficult. You’re dealing with a new campus, new student card, new housing, new systems and faculty. Also, living in large urban areas is expensive and housing alone may pose barriers to many students wanting to pursue a BScN.
What are some of the challenges nurses face in this pandemic?
The thing with COVID-19, especially in the beginning, is that guidelines and provincial directions change constantly with new evidence. There are lots of challenges as we constantly work to make sure that people have the most current information when they’re starting a shift.
There’s also a lot of pressure. You want to make sure you’re providing the best care you can in any given situation. Nurses work hard to achieve that. It’s easy to forget what they’re struggling with at home. Nurses have the same challenges as everyone else. They’re missing their families and friends. They can’t go out. They have kids. Some are single and missing their social lives. It’s tough.
My nursing heroes are my colleagues at MAHC who show up every day and work so hard to provide amazing care to our patients.
I’m also so thankful for the nurses and leaders who taught, guided me and took the time to help me grow.