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More than bedpans

April 20, 2023

Woman in blue outfit smiling

A surprise life event led UVic Nursing grad Melanie Stack from the bedside to the boardroom—navigating the choppy waters of pandemic planning.

Melanie Stack was living a busy, stressful life as a nurse in Victoria, when she unexpectedly became the patient instead of the care provider. "I started my career in the emergency department and had a car accident that took me away from the bedside,” says Stack, who earned a BScN/RN degree from UVic/Camosun in 2008.

The 2010 accident caused physical limitations that made the rigours of bedside nursing tough.  She lasted to 2014, then made the major decision to leave emergency nursing. “It was a big loss of identity,” she recalls. That was when she realized: “OK, your career is not who you are."

New path

She started her new path by taking UVic’s Certificate in Business Administration in 2013. Her hands-on experience made her want to help strategize to head off problems and challenges. “My hope is that with the administration, I can help my colleagues at all levels... a solid strategy is going to help us get through this phase in the healthcare system, that I hope is a phase,” says Stack, who served as the Director of COVID Immunization Operations until April of 2022.

The pandemic presented a Himalayan learning climb.

"There are two types of people when it comes to a crisis. One, who are very much looking for the safety and comfort of what they know. And then there are ones who see this as an opportunity and rise to it.”

—UVic Nursing grad Melanie Stack

She learned she can function on little sleep. “And I thrive on constant change... I somewhat knew this from my emergency-nursing career, but I thrive on that constant change. You make a decision, good, bad or otherwise, and what's next, what's next, what's next.”

Planning immunizations on a massive scale involved pivoting, collaboration and trying to figure it out in the moment. “We didn't have anyone who'd worked in a pandemic before,” she says. There were manuals, but they were not tethered to lived experience.

Stack recently completed UVic’s Certificate in Emergency Management for Organizational Continuity. It's her way of reconciling what happened during the pandemic to explore on a theoretical level why things happened the way they did.

Sign for COVID immunization clinic
Planning immunizations on a massive scale involved pivoting, collaboration and trying to figure it out in the moment. Photo Michael Kissinger

Different approach

Last Halloween, Stack, who is now Lead, Human Resources Initiatives for Island Health, bought herself a Westie terrier, which she named Kit Kat, to celebrate making it through the crisis. She is confident we—and she—are far better prepared for the next one. "I'm a firm believer that problems are solvable and you can approach things different ways."

It’s been quite a journey for someone who resisted nursing at first and wanted to become a flight attendant—but was too short to reach the overhead bins. “I’m so glad I stayed. It’s more than bedpans. It’s the problem solving, the caring for people, the creativity. You are everything to people, who are quite dependent upon you. It really pushes you to rise up to a higher level as a professional and a person as well.”

—Jenny Manzer, BA '97

Top photo by Erin Clayton

This article appears in the UVic Torch alumni magazine.

For more Torch stories, go to the UVic Torch alumni magazine page.