Alumni Engagement

ER Nurse immediately prepared to work thanks to RRC Polytech education

July 3, 2024

RRC Polytech Bachelor of Nursing graduate Melissa Williams had a secret behind her smile as she had her photo taken earlier this year. The photo was being used as a part of RRC Polytech’s Proud Partner billboard campaign showcasing grads across the province.

“In the billboard, you can’t tell, but I’m pregnant—I mean, like first trimester pregnant,” Williams said on a phone call. But before she begins her next adventure as a first-time parent, she shared her journey of being in school during a pandemic and how she found herself caring for the sickest of the sick in the hospital.

“I work in the resus room [resuscitation or trauma room] of the emergency department, taking care of the most acute patients. I really love doing that type of nursing,” said Williams.

Williams is familiar with people who’ve needed acute care. Both her sister and brother have almost died and have needed to have emergency services at hospitals.

“They both survived and have made full recoveries, but I understand the importance of emergency services,” she added. “I think I’ve always been interested in medicine; learning about the human body and ways to improve our health. My mom was a nurse and just such a nurturer – that helped inspire me to become a nurse.”

When asked why she was driven to work in the emergency room, she took a moment before she responded with, “I guess it’s that you’re using all of your skills, right? You really have to think critically. You have to run multiple infusions. Sometimes you’re intubating patients and putting central lines in. And it’s really interesting to see everything that we can do to save a patient.”

From Health Care Aide to ER Nurse

Williams started her career in health care after graduating from the Health Care Aide program at RRC Polytech in 2012.

“Choosing RRC Polytech [in 2012] was a positive experience and was the starting point of my post-secondary education and helped to bring me back in the future,” she said.

Williams had been working as a Health Care Aide when she decided to continue her education and took a two-year Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program, graduating in 2016, after which she was able to join the LPN to Bachelor of Nursing Pathway program at RRC Polytech, which she completed in 2022.

“RRC Polytech really does have the best reputation for the nurses that graduate here,” Williams said, “and I wanted to graduate with that same reputation.”

She began her program at RRC Polytech in Winter 2020. Three months later, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic and RRC Polytech moved their classes online.

“It was a bit of a unique experience. I only went to classes in person for one term, so three months—and then COVID hit, so all classes moved online, and it was a bit tumultuous. We had to be flexible, and we were learning with the instructors how we were going to make class time work online,” she said.

Williams and her peers never went back to in-person learning. They graduated RRC Polytech learning almost exclusively online, with only one clinical being cancelled due to COVID. Students were able to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), work in non-COVID units, and followed the recommended guidelines for the clinical part of their learning.

“I don’t know how the other students did it. I had my LPN background, which I found extremely helpful when we had to switch to online,” Williams added.

Immediately prepared to work

She believes that her time at RRC Polytech made sure she was prepared to work the second after she graduated.

“The clinicals really helped. Having that time on the floor, the hands-on-learning, and those instructors. Most of the time, the instructors still continue to nurse, and work part-time as a nurses, so they know what’s going on – they work in that unit that they’re taking you to, and I felt that was really helpful,” she said.

Williams is currently practicing at the Selkirk Regional Health Centre, where she was hired immediately upon graduation.

“I would definitely tell students pursuing nursing to choose RRC Polytech. You get more hands-on training and you’re prepared to just start the job right away. And oftentimes, you’ve been immersed in that world already with the clinical experiences and that’s really helpful,” she noted.

Standing on Main Street in Selkirk, Melissa’s billboard has made a bit of buzz around town.

“They thought of me, and I was pretty shocked,” said Williams after hearing about being selected to be featured on the billboard. “It was a busy day in the emerge and I was pulled out by the Chief Nursing Officer who asked me if I would be okay to do this. It’s not something you get asked every day, so I said yes after thinking about it.”

Williams has been featured in the Selkirk and Beausejour community newspapers and gets approached by people telling her that they saw her picture up in town. “It’s definitely a different feeling,” Williams noted as she chuckled.

When asked what’s on the horizon, she has plenty to consider.

“I would definitely be interested in taking a critical care nursing course to potentially work in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). It’s something I’ve always been interested in. Again, you’re taking care of the sickest of the sick, the most acute patients and I find that’s where my heart lies,” she said.

“And eventually, down the road, a long-term goal would be to own my own business. What that looks like, I’m not one hundred per cent sure, but I would like to open some type of business that I could highlight with my nursing career,” said Williams. “There are so many avenues with nursing, that it’s really nice to have that available.”

But before all of that, Williams has decided to take an 18-month maternity leave to spend time with her first child, who’s due in early August. She’s excited to take on this new journey in her next career as a mom – where her critical thinking skills will be used in a new way.

Williams is one of 41 proud alumni featured in the College’s Polytechnic Proud campaign. Visit the Polytechnic Proud page to learn more.

Profile by Judy Braun (Creative Communications, 2012).

RRC Polytech campuses are located on the lands of Anishinaabe, Ininiwak, Anishininew, Dakota, and Dené, and the National Homeland of the Red River Métis.

We recognize and honour Treaty 3 Territory Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, the source of Winnipeg’s clean drinking water. In addition, we acknowledge Treaty Territories which provide us with access to electricity we use in both our personal and professional lives.

Learn more ›