By Melissa Evans, RN, BSN, CPN
Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital
Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
My first time in nursing school, I brought my Barbie dolls. I was four years old and my mom was the nursing school student. I’d sit back with plenty of Barbie accessories to swap out and keep me occupied. I’d like to think I was a child prodigy, understanding the material, helping my mom study.That’s not the case, though. Dancing in pink tutus around Mom’s study group in our living room probably created more distraction than good.
Growing up, nursing was all around me. My mom’s mother, or “Honey” as I called my grandma, was also a registered nurse. She’s known around the family for her stories from her time working at a local hospital and always a phone call away when I’ve had an especially taxing shift. In elementary school, I spent hours volunteering with her in a Houston Independent School District clinic. I remember sitting next to Honey as she administered feedings through a PEG tube and using her hands to sign, in order to interact with kids who communicated in a way that was just different than me. Although Mom’s and Honey’s paths in nursing were different, at the center of both are the patients, the precious lives for whom they were entrusted to care.
Although I am a native Houstonian, my formal nursing education began in Lubbock as a student of Texas Tech University. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the medical field, and most assuredly in pediatrics; however, which member of the health care team I would become took a bit of discovery. Ultimately, my time volunteering and shadowing during college showed me that nursing was the role for me. And even though I had never stepped foot in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) before I started exploring the medical field, from the start of school I continually asked my clinical coordinator for my clinical shifts to be in the PICU. I just knew that I wanted to be a part of what was happening there: the intensity, the challenge, and standard of care given to critically ill and seriously injured children captured my attention. Somehow, I seemed to end up there often, and while I found it to be intimidating at first, I knew these children’s precious liveswere so worth my advocacy, aid, and attention.
I do what I do because life is precious. Every day I come to serve in the PICU at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital is hard. It’s hard because precious lives are hurting. Nobody ever expects to be a patient or family member to those in need of intensive care; every family I interact with is experiencing heartache. Vulnerability. Their worst nightmares. As a PICU nurse, I have the distinguished opportunity to place myself into this broken space and be present, to be there for a child and a family in the thick of pain and uncertainty. Allowing myself to be fully present both in their medical care and in my own heart can be emotionally tough, but it’s so important for my patients and their families. I am humbled by this simple truth: incurable illnesses, debilitating diseases, and unexplained tragedies exist in the world. This reality is one I face with every shift in the PICU. I am often part of a family’s story they wish could be rewritten. While I cannot rewrite the past, I can be present in the midst of pain. I can hold fast to my belief that every life is inherently beautiful and valuable. Every patient I am assigned bears a precious life, worthy of the best care. This huge weight and responsibility demands grace, compassion, and genuine care. I am honored to be part of a team delivering all that and more to those in need day in and day out.
In celebration of National Nurses Week, Melissa Evans was named one of Houston’s Top 10 Nurses of the Year by the Houston Chronicle’s “Salute to Nurses” 2017 list. Additionally, 19 other Memorial Hermann nurses across the System were named among the Top 150. Learn more about joining the Memorial Hermann nursing team.