Melanie Kozak, RN and Clinical Lead for Labour and Delivery in the Teck ACC, and the UCC celebrates three years with the redevelopment project this month, and 23 years in nursing. Find out why she chose to spend her life caring for others.
Many people know early on in life what they want to do with their career. For Melanie Kozak, RN, Clinical Lead for Labour and Delivery in the Teck Acute Care Centre (Teck ACC), and BC Women’s Urgent Care Centre (UCC), the choice was easy. She wanted to be a nurse. “My mother was a nurse,” she says. “She was a real pioneer; the first head nurse at the VGH Heather Pavillion. She shared a lot of stories about her work and her patients, and I found them really interesting.”
Melanie’s experience with the Oak Street campus began early. “When I was 15 or so, I volunteered at the Shaughnessy Hospital in the veteran’s wing, helping Vets play Bingo on weekends. They were real characters; I still think about them sometimes,” she recalls. “To this day, I still have a soft spot for seniors.” That volunteer experience had a significant impact on her life and career. Observing how care givers interacted with the veterans was part of the inspiration that led her to become a nurse.
Melanie graduated from the first class of the newly combined VGH School of Nursing and UBC nursing program and began working at VGH until one day she received the fateful call from Grace Hospital asking her to join the nursing team there. “I never thought I’d want to work in maternity,” she said, “but I did a student placement at Grace and fell in love with it. I always wanted to go back.”
For almost twenty years, Melanie has worked at BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre, starting in low risk birthing, then high risk, moving into a triage nurse role, and then a charge nurse role. In 2001, she accepted a position as a Clinical Nurse Educator and continued in that role until she was seconded to the BC Children’s and BC Women’s Redevelopment Project in 2013.
“When I heard that there was going to be a new hospital on the campus, and a component of it was going to be BC Women’s, I thought what an opportunity to see it redeveloped from the ground up, no pun intended,” Melanie reflects. “I thought it was a unique opportunity for BC Women’s and BC Children’s to work together and learn from each other on this one big project,” she says.
With just over a year until opening day, she reflects on what she’s most excited about in the Teck ACC: “High risk birthing and the NICU will be able to work more closely with each other. The units will be in closer proximity to each other, and since the work we do is quite connected, as high risk pregnancies often need the involvement of NICU nurses following a birth, we’ll be able to work together as a larger team. It will be better for patients and families, and that excites me.” As for the new BC Women’s UCC, Melanie is excited for the single-patient rooms which include many features to enhance patient privacy. “Giving birth can be a stressful time. Women need privacy, and we’re answering the call.”
Melanie feels truly blessed to have a career in which she touches the lives of so many. “Nursing shapes you,” she reflects. “Every experience teaches you something. If I had to do it all over, I’d do exactly the same thing.”
The Teck ACC is scheduled to open in fall 2017 and will include 231 private patient rooms, each with space for family members to stay, as well as 87 outpatient exam rooms. It will also have healing gardens, active play spaces and a Wellness Walkway as part of the integrated landscape design.
The Teck ACC will replace aging infrastructure and provide much-needed space for the larger care teams and new technologies required to treat today’s chronic and more complex illnesses. It will be an integral part of British Columbia’s health-care system, providing exceptional specialized care for the most seriously ill children and complex obstetrical cases in BC.