RN Spotlight – Melanie McCarthy

Melanie McCarthy entered her Registered Nursing career later in life than most of her BScN classmates. Prior to this, she had obtained a Business degree and worked in a couple of different administrative environments before she got the urge to further her lifelong learning. She knew she needed a challenging career that provided a lot of different opportunities within the same profession. Her grandmother loved her acute care RN career and retired at age 69. Listening and watching her love for the profession led Melanie to enter the BN program at UPEI and she graduated in 2005 with her grandmother in attendance.

Her experience in the acute care environment at the QEH sparked her interest in becoming a Nurse Practitioner. She loved being around the knowledge of the seasoned RNs she worked with and she appreciated how the specialists and internists on the unit she worked on valued the assessment skills and information the RNs provided to them.

“Personally, I entered the NP program to become more autonomous in my practice”, says Melanie. She enrolled in the Dalhousie University Master of Nursing program on a part-time basis and continued to work as a RN in PEI. She completed her MN as a Nurse Practitioner in Family All Ages in 2010.

She was then fortunate to obtain a Primary Care NP position at Harbourside Health Centre in Summerside.

“This environment is one of the most innovative I have worked in. Its vision and values are something I respect. I work with a great group of professionals and many healthcare services are accessible to patients at this clinic. There should be more clinics like this,” says Melanie.

As a Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Melanie diagnoses and treats acute and chronic common illnesses and injuries. Her role focuses on non-urgent care, health promotion, and preventative health, however, complex issues do arise and when it is out of her scope of practice she collaborates with the family physicians or refers to a specialist as needed. The role enables her to order x-rays and ultrasounds, write prescriptions, order and interpret laboratory tests, and communicate these results to patients. Her typical work day includes seeing non-urgent patients by appointments and collaborating with physicians and other healthcare professionals. She takes time to educate people on how to enhance self-care activities, better understand the healthcare resources available to them and, improve resource utilization by the general public.

One challenge Melanie identified about being a Nurse Practitioner is the lack of understanding of the NP role. (The Canadian Nurses Association has a ‘NP Now’ public awareness campaign they are presently running province by province. For more information refer to www.npnow.ca.)

The clinical role is only one aspect of being a Nurse Practitioner. Melanie also sits in an advisory position on the provincial NP Integration into Primary Care Working Group, a group whose mandate is to recruit, retain, and integrate Nurse Practitioners into all primary care networks. She represents the interests of the NP’s of PEI as a member of the Diagnostic & Therapeutics Committee, a committee whose mandate is to formulate, maintain, and revise prescription and diagnostic guidelines. An active member of ARNPEI, Melanie and the NP group regularly meet with the executive to discuss issues pertaining to the implementation and integration of NP’s in PEI. She is an advocate for her patients and is actively involved in addressing obesity, a disease that has become a global epidemic and a co-morbidity of many prevalent chronic disease entities.

Melanie lives with her husband, David in Stratford. She is very thankful for his ongoing encouragement and support in her profession. She enjoys gardening, attracting different birds to the yard, and loves taking courses to learn more and enhance the care she provides to patients. She also appreciates her friends and co-workers that help her to live a healthy lifestyle by encouraging, praising, and participating in physical activity.