By Alex Coleman
Our nursing school is full of students who are brilliant and kind. Melanie Watabe is one of them. The story that got her to where she is in her third semester at the College of Nursing at Brigham Young University is one that demonstrates her courage and commitment to the people she will serve. Melanie is, in fact, in her fifth year of undergrad. She’s always loved the health field, and never wanted to be a nurse, but three years into the exercise and wellness major she felt very strongly that she was not where she was supposed to be. In a response to that prompting, she began exploring what it would take to start nursing school. After a lot of talks with the academic counselor to work around the excessive number of credits Melanie had already put toward graduation, Melanie headed out on her mission to Japan. Upon her return a year and a half later, she applied to the program and was accepted.
Early on, however, Melanie found that the program pushed her way beyond her comfort level, a feeling to which many of our new nurses can surely relate. It wasn’t until she began doing clinicals and was able to apply everything that she’s learned that she found that not only was nursing school an attainable feat, but that she truly enjoyed it—specifically geriatrics. In her own words, “I love the patient/nurse interaction, I love hearing about elderly people’s life experiences, I love the grandparent/grandchild relationship you can develop with your patients. I love all of it!”
Even outside of nursing school, Melanie finds great fulfilment in helping elderly people. This semester, she started a new job helping a 92-year old woman who is on 24-hour care. She goes in a few times a week to help take care of her. “We have definitely developed a friendship,” she comments, “We have a lot of connections, we’re from the same city, and I love learning from the wisdom she’s been able to develop over the years.” The passion she’s found in caring for elderly people developed in her as a young girl. Though Melanie grew up in Orem, UT, her parents were both born and raised in Japan, where they met before moving to the United States. Melanie’s family still goes back to Japan every other year to visit family and friends. “All our family’s friends and my aunts and uncles in Japan are getting on in years,” Melanie explains, “I’ve always felt comfortable being around older people and now I really enjoy it.”
Why does Melanie love going to nursing school at BYU? “First, I love our professors,” she says. “I am so grateful for teachers that have helped me to learn the Healer’s art in the way that they have. They are helpful, kind, and incredibly invested in your progress as a student.” Melanie continues, “Second, I love the spiritual aspect of BYU Nursing. I love the compassion aspect that comes with that, but I also find great peace in the fact that when we don’t know what to do, we have the power to call upon the Spirit to help us to be able to administer care to individuals that really need our aid.” Melanie studies nursing with the knowledge that “all of it is ministering,” and it guides her both in her schoolwork now and in the goals she sets for her future and the way that she accomplishes them.
In addition to her love for nursing, Melanie loves being active. She loves sports, the outdoors, running, and exercising. She finds time to serve her community through her church calling as Relief Society President.