By Alex Abrams
Melanie Morris ’10 MSN, MBA considered being a teacher, an attorney, a physical therapist, and someone who worked with special needs children before she accidentally fell in love with nursing.
Morris wasn’t raised in a family of caregivers. Her father is a businessman, her mother has a finance background, and the closest thing she has to a nurse in her family is a grandfather who worked as a dentist.
Morris decided to go to nursing school only because she wanted to earn a bachelor’s degree in some field before she started a master’s program in physical therapy. Once she started interacting with patients, however, her career choice became apparent.
Nursing allowed Morris, an Asheville native, to take aspects from her different dream jobs and combine them into one profession.
“I said I wanted to be a teacher, so that part really came out in nursing in that I could teach people how to take care of themselves,” she said. “[As far as] the attorney piece that I wanted to do, I get to be an advocate for people. I get to help them navigate a system that’s really confusing.”
When Morris serves as the keynote speaker at the UNC Greensboro School of Nursing Commencement on Thursday, she can share words of wisdom that she has gained during her nontraditional nursing career with the Class of 2019.
In 2010, Morris earned her master’s degree in nursing administration and business administration from UNCG while juggling a hectic schedule that included a full-time job, a busy course load, clinical rotations, and her second child.
Morris has spent the past 11 years working for Advanced Home Care in High Point, where she oversees close to 650 employees – including around 300 nurses – as Vice President of Home Health. She ensures the nurses and other clinical staff who visit patients in their homes in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia are compliant and provide stellar care.
Morris also serves on the Board of Advisors for the UNCG School of Nursing, the Board of Directors for the Association for Home and Hospice Care of North Carolina, and the Board of Directors for the Visiting Nurses Association of America.
“I’m just really passionate about helping nurses see that there are different possibilities outside of a hospital. If I can connect with UNCG to share that and help people who are aspiring to be nurses see that there are other things outside of an acute setting, then that’s really important to me.” – Melanie Morris
Morris can draw from her own career and tell graduates about how they might need to work in different settings before they find their niche in an ever-changing nursing profession.
She was unable to find a good nursing job in North Carolina after she graduated with a bachelor of science in nursing degree from the University of North Carolina.
One of her former professors had connections in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Morris felt moving across the country to work as a hospital nurse would be the “grand adventure” she needed at that time in her life. The adventure lasted only two years, though.
Morris moved back to Asheville and started working as a home health nurse, which allowed her to connect more with patients than she had experienced in the hospital setting. She later worked as a legal nurse consultant.
Feeling limited by her education, though, Morris eventually decided to enroll in UNCG’s MSN-MBA program. She had always enjoyed the business side of nursing, and as her career has progressed, she has become known more as a math person who works with Excel spreadsheets to find the “story in the numbers.”
Her favorites aspects of her job still revolve around teaching and caring for people.
So, as Morris prepares to address a new class of graduating students, is there a course in nursing school that she particularly struggled with as an undergraduate?
“Pharmacology was such a weakness for me,” Morris said, laughing. “I just really struggled with that, and even before nursing school chemistry was really the bane of my existence.”