When two passions come together

Melanie Zhao began her nursing career in Cardiology and Internal Medicine in 2018. A graduate from the University of Calgary, she always found herself loving the learning aspect of her studies and thought that teaching nursing in the future would be a path she would like to explore.

She is now a Registered Nurse in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Foothills Medical Centre as well as a sessional nursing instructor. Her areas of research are in undergraduate nursing education and leadership, hoping to focus on ways to improve undergraduate curriculum design and empower future nurses to transform the healthcare system.

Her goal with her research is to build a curriculum design that incorporates all learning styles and helps build a passion for nursing in all her students.

“Undergraduate students today have very distinct and unique characteristics. I’ve noticed the way they consume information is very different from older generations because they grew up using different tools that assisted in their learning,” Melanie explains.

Melanie is looking to explore various teaching methods that suit the learning needs of students today and is most interested in learning more about using augmented reality in simulations to help facilitate experiential learning.

Melanie was recently awarded the Florence and Lloyd Cooper Alberta Registered Nurses Educational Trust (ARNET) Scholarship for her dedication to her studies and research.

“Being awarded the scholarship made me feel very recognized and proud. I’m very grateful to ARNET and the Calgary Health Foundation for this scholarship.”

The scholarship allowed her to reduce the number of hours she was working in the hospital so she could focus on her studies. It was still important for Melanie to work while instructing students so she could stay current in her practice.

“The scholarship allowed me to live a more balanced lifestyle and provided some financial assistance to me without feeling stressed or burdened to pick up extra shifts.”

“I think being constantly surrounded by very motivated and eager people, I was reminded of the life-long learning attitude that I had promised to adopt when I was a student. This is what encouraged me to transition my practice to critical care as well.”

Being able to be both a nurse and an instructor has been very rewarding for Melanie. She loves being able to still interact with patients while also bringing her practical knowledge and experience to her teaching.

The relationships she has made with her students are what makes teaching most rewarding for her.

“I still keep in touch with almost all 31 of my students that I’ve taught. I love hearing where they are in their careers and love seeing them get the jobs they applied for.”

She recognizes that many of her colleagues faced challenges related to burnout and the difficulties the pandemic put on the healthcare system. She has an optimistic view that many solutions came out of a time when there was an immense strain on the system.

“When we’re thrown into a chaotic mess, we may feel more obligated to come up with solutions faster.”

In the future, she sees herself becoming a full-time instructor, helping shape the nurses of tomorrow. “I think nursing is very rewarding because it has a lot of opportunities to branch out to different specialties. I want people who are interested in the nursing profession or are early on in their career to maintain an open mind and explore different areas of practice.”

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