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Nursing, helping others, is a family affair for ASU alumni

Denise Kronsteiner

As a critical care nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Banner Desert Medical Center, Melanie Ryan spends her days caring for premature and critically ill newborns with life threatening conditions.  After spending most of her nursing career in the pediatric intensive care unit caring for critically ill children and adolescents, NICU seemed like the perfect next step.

“The NICU presents countless opportunities to learn and see truly unique cases,” she said. “I’m so blessed that I get to make a difference in the lives of these babies every day and get to see them graduate from the NICU. At times there are those who do not survive and I then work with the families to prepare them for the loss they must work through. This is the most difficult aspect of my job.”

Nursing wasn’t always on Ryan’s radar. She began college as an engineering student, but things changed when her sister was killed in a tragic car accident.  “This was a difficult event in my life, but also was the inspiration for me to change course and become a nurse,” she said.  Ryan graduated from ASU’s College of Nursing in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing.

For Ryan, nursing has become a family affair.  Her son Andrew recently graduated from ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation with his BSN degree after switching his major from software engineering to nursing during his sophomore year.  As his mother and now a fellow nurse, she couldn’t be more proud, she said.

“Andrew’s father and I were both trauma and ICU nurses,” Ryan said.  “From an early age, he heard many stories of miracles and some unfortunate tragedies from our work as nurses.  Although Andrew always enjoyed and had a natural skill at engineering, he realized that he wanted to help others and make a more tangible difference in their lives.”

Andrew did well in the engineering program, earning academic recognition both semesters, but had become unsatisfied with his major.  He began to wonder how his work would impact people in a positive way, so he took a semester to experiment with science courses.  While he had initially thought about nursing as he was deciding on his major, he felt intimidated by the competitiveness of the program, the number of clinical hours, and the stress involved in the field.

But after changing direction and taking the prerequisite courses for the nursing program, he was hooked.

“I was never bored and I wanted more,” he said. “When I was accepted into the program, I’d spend extra hours practicing my skills in lab, assessing family members, and researching diseases.  I was eating and breathing nursing, and as a graduate from ASU’s program--and a current RN, I am so glad I made this choice!”

Melanie Ryan plans to continue the family’s college-going tradition and return to ASU next spring to earn her Master of Science degree in Nursing with a focus on education.  She also intends to pursue her family nurse practitioner certification with plans to work in an urgent care setting in the community and pursue mission work in underdeveloped countries where children are at risk.

“I currently precept student nurses, new grads and new hires,” she said. “I would like to expand on my teaching skills and become a clinical instructor to share my passion and knowledge with those just starting their careers.  I’ve had many incredible instructors over the years who inspired me and drove me to continue learning and improving at all times.”