Melissa McMillan: Passionate about helping families and their children
November 22, 2021

At Georgian, we believe nurses are heroes. Because true heroes are defined by traits we can’t see: strong hearts, bright minds, and a whole lot of courage.
Over the next few months we’ll be sharing stories about #GCHeroes: people from Georgian’s nursing community – graduates, faculty and students – who are overcoming challenges and working hard every single day.

Today we’re introducing you to Melissa.

She’s a Registered Nurse at McMaster Children’s Hospital in the Level 2 and 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Melissa does bedside care of acutely ill neonates and works alongside neonatologists, nurse practitioners and respiratory therapists on a daily basis. Many of the infants they care for are born premature, anywhere from 22 weeks gestational age and up with many requiring respiratory support. In her role she also does a lot of teaching with families including, but not limited to, diaper changes, orientating to the unit, bottle/breastfeeding, tracheostomy care, CPAP care, using a G-tube and so much more.  

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 Shallow Lake, a small town outside Owen Sound. I’ve always had a passion for travelling and took a big graduation trip to Thailand to celebrate. I’m very family oriented and love spending time with my whole family during holidays. I also have two cats. After high school I spent a year living in Hamilton while I did Pre-Health through Mohawk College to get my grades up to apply to the nursing program.

What do you think is your greatest achievement?

Getting the position in the neonatal ICU. Before I even applied for the job, I had started taking courses with never having seen or observed NICU work. I was unsure if I would even like working with infants. I got the job without any experience in this area and feel that I achieved my goal by getting this job and completing the courses required. Now I see myself staying in this specialty for life.

A female wearing a blue face mask and yellow covering

What challenges did you overcome to get where you are?

A challenge I overcame was at my first job as a nurse. Newly graduated, I worked on a medical unit and the entire time I worked there I was bullied by a more senior co-worker. Not only did this make me anxious to go to work, when I knew I had to work with them it really discouraged me, making me feel as though I didn’t deserve to be a nurse. I did all the necessary steps when talking to managers and human resources but nothing was ever done to prevent this or even stop this from happening. Workplace bullying is a real thing and I’m grateful I was able to get away and nurse in an environment that builds me up and doesn’t tear me down.

Another challenge I faced during nursing school was trying to get good grades. I’ve always had to work hard to get good grades and nursing school is already very heavy content wise, and sometimes it was discouraging when I would get 60s for assignments or tests when I worked hard. I learned to realize that grades weren’t going to define me as a nurse and that nursing is a continuous learning experience.

The most motivating thing to me working as a nurse is knowing that I’m helping families and babies overcome some of the most stressful times in their life. I wake up every day knowing that when I go to work I will have an impact on someone’s life no matter how big or small. If I can make someone’s day even slightly better or less scary I know I’m doing my job right.

Who are your nursing heroes?

My coworkers. Getting to work with amazing people who have worked as nurses for years, and seeing the compassion and love they have for their job is truly inspiring. They give me the motivation to keep working hard on my skills and learning so that I can be like them one day and inspire other new nurses.

Why did you decide to become a nurse?

I can’t remember a time where I didn’t want to be a nurse; I’ve always wanted to be one. Getting the opportunity to care for people is something I’m very passionate about. Getting to go to work every day and knowing that I can make a difference in someone’s life is something I’m very grateful for.

What’s one of your favorite Georgian memories?

The parties! As cliché as that sounds, it wasn’t about the party and going out, it was more about getting to meet so many great people who became lifelong friends. At events, we didn’t care who was in what program – everyone was friends with one another, which made Georgian such a great experience. Getting to interact with people and seeing them in the halls, saying hello to everyone, and knowing many of the other students made it more memorable. I actually met my best friend at Georgian who was in the RPN program at the time. Georgian offers such a great community feeling. Another great memory is when our anatomy teacher brought in a deer heart to show everyone! Most people would think that was gross but our whole class enjoyed it so much.

How has the pandemic affected your view of nursing?

The pandemic has shown me how adaptable I am as a nurse. I worked on a COVID-19 unit during the beginning of the pandemic for about seven months and it was tough. The not knowing and extra PPE requirements were a lot but everyone worked together to make the best of the situation and it showed me how adaptable I can be to the ever-changing nursing environment.

A young smiling female wth long blonde hair wearing a purple nursing uniform and holding a stethoscope

What do you think about Georgian offering all four years of a BScN program?

It will be so beneficial for many people when Georgian’s Owen Sound Campus offers the entire four-year program. From my experience, I didn’t mind the thought of moving since I grew up in Owen Sound, but for a lot of other students they had homes and families in Owen Sound and didn’t want to uproot their family for two years. Offering the four-year program locally will give people a chance to become registered nurses without having to move. Living in the city can be expensive, and if individuals from Owen Sound had the opportunity to stay there for the four years I think it would benefit them greatly.

A female in a purple nursing uniform holding a clipboard

The simulation labs at Georgian are also a great learning place for students in the nursing program. Georgian offered a weekly hands-on simulation class giving students more opportunity to practise skills. Students could also use the simulation lab that was open during specific times to go in and practise outside of class time. I think the environment at Georgian offered better learning experiences for nursing students.

What were your placements like?

Getting to do my placements in the Owen Sound area was a great opportunity. Our class size was small, which allowed me to get more learning opportunities and allowed me to practise more skills. We got to observe in the operating room multiple times on surgeries, see labour and delivery and postpartum care, and other specialties. Due to the smaller class size, more opportunities were presented to us since less people were on one unit at a time. My favourite experience was getting to watch a lobectomy in the operating room. It was something I will never forget! I actually ended up working on one of the medical floors that I had a placement with once I graduated from the nursing program. These placements opened so many doors for many of the students who went to Georgian because we weren’t just another set of nursing students – we were the first registered nursing students. Many of my past classmates also work in the hospital we had many of our placements in first and second year.

What was a big learning take away from your placements? 

I think the biggest learning take away my placements provided me with was good time management. Some days as nurses can be super busy and being given the opportunity to work on my time management allowed me to enter the workplace with this skill. Also, learning that the people in the hospital are not defined by their illness. They have so much more to offer and it’s amazing what you learn about someone if you can just take a moment and listen to their stories.

Georgian was a great place to start my nursing career. The smaller class sizes really gave me the opportunity to learn and see more things than I believe I would’ve in a larger school. The smaller campus allowed me to make lifelong friends with my classmates and to get to know everyone in my class – not just a select few. The teachers I had were amazing nurses and loved teaching, which made learning easier and enjoyable.


More about Georgian’s nursing degree

Study close to home and graduate with the advantage of more industry connections, hands-on practise and one-on-one training with small class sizes taught by expert faculty who care.

  • Four-year degree
  • Barrie and Owen Sound campuses
  • Six clinical placements
  • Starts fall 2022

Know a health-care hero?

Do you have a story to share about a health-care hero making meaningful impacts in your community?

Share your stories, gratitude, photos, videos and more by using the hashtag #GCHeroes on social.

You should also check out last week’s #GCHeroes story about Lisette Verzijlenberg.