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OR Nurse, New Yorker

From her apartment on the Upper East Side Aya travel nurse Melissa declares “There was always a part of me that thought I was going to fall in love with New York City.” From walks in Central Park with Walter Disney, her energetic Jack Russell terrier, to Broadway shows and celebrity sightings, to rooftop bars and Yankees games, it’s as if naming her pup after America’s most famous animator sealed her fate. At least in Melissa’s case, dreams really do come true.

Melissa is on her third assignment in the Big Apple and “every time I’ve started a new contract it’s been ‘we are so excited that you’re here!’ That means a lot coming from people you have never met before. That they are willing to open up and show you the ropes.” She was nervous to leave her native Texas (she grew up in Arlington but has lived in Austin the last few years) but after a cross-country road trip with her father, the warm welcome she received from coworkers and the support of her Aya team Melissa quickly felt right at home in her new city. Aya’s thorough application process meant that Melissa “felt totally ready by the time I was at my first assignment.” For the most part, her time in New York has floated by like an afternoon of smooth sailing on the Hudson, but choppy waters can never completely be avoided. “If I had an issue with anything or felt uncomfortable with anything I told my recruiter Erin and it was handled. I’ve never felt at one time that somebody didn’t have my back.”

Not only has Melissa settled into her favorite city but she has also found her ideal workplace in the operating room at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Melissa has ICU training and came to New York from a heart transplant team in Austin, Texas so she is no stranger to life-or-death situations. Even so, she has found that Sloan Kettering boasts a “whole different caliber of surgeon and facility. I’ve been a nurse for five years and I got here and saw cases I had never seen before.” Working at the prestigious facility has been the fulfillment of another long-held ambition of Melissa’s. In fact, she says “I told Erin ‘if you can get me a job at Sloan Kettering I’ll love you forever’ and she did it. I am forever indebted to her for giving me the opportunity.” It is not only the staff’s incredible skill level but the attitude that permeates the space that so impresses Melissa. “One of my favorite memories is going out to the cafeteria at lunch. An older man and his wife were sitting next to me and she asked ‘do you just love working here? Everyone seems so happy here.’” Melissa was touched that these people, even though they found themselves in the tough situation of visiting a family member in the hospital, noticed the warm environment. “It is remarkable. It goes all the way from nurses to the cleaning staff to the chefs behind the kitchen. We love what we do.” When you are working at one of the best cancer centers in the world there is a lot to love. Even in a place where the miraculous can be witnessed regularly, some days stand out more than others. Like when a famous, bestselling author comes to chronicle your day. “Humans of New York was there in our operating room taking pictures of surgeons and staff and blasting out to the world what we do in our facility and how great it is. That was a cool thing to be a part of.”

If it seems like everything is falling into place for this newly minted New Yorker, that’s because it is. Not only is Melissa in the city of her dreams, working at the facility of her dreams, but she has also realized her dearest lifelong desire. “My path all the way up from when I was born until now has shaped why I love what I do and why I am so adamant about being somebody who cares so much.” Melissa was eight weeks premature and “had a really intense infection when I was born. The doctors and nurses taking care of me caught onto it right away and prevented me from having multiple surgeries throughout my lifetime which has always been special to me.” Melissa has always known that she wanted to do “something in medicine” and it was the mother of a childhood friend who solidified her passion for nursing. Melissa traveled the world as a member of a close-knit competitive swim team and “getting to talk to Andrew’s mom about why she liked nursing so much paved the way for me.” It was kismet, this mentor was also happened to be one of the nurses that helped save Melissa’s life as an infant. Now it is time for Melissa to inspire the next generation of RNs. She loves teaching and always welcomes nursing students in her OR. Her advice for anyone thinking of giving travel nursing a try is “just go for it. Jump in with both feet and don’t be nervous because everybody has your back.”