Thrive by IU Health

May 10, 2023

Intensive care nurse awarded for service that rewards her daily

IU Health University Hospital

Intensive care nurse awarded for service that rewards her daily

She’s been a critical care nurse for more than 30 years. This dedicated caregiver recently received a scholarship for an essay she wrote about life during the pandemic.

By TJ Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist,

She credits her mother with instilling a heart for service. Over the years, Melissa Coxey has paved her own path caring for others.

As hospitals around the country celebrate National Nurses Week, this caregiver is being recognized for her role above and beyond her professional calling.

Melissa Coxey Original Artwork

Coxey submitted original artwork and an essay to the Central Indiana Chapter of the American Association of Critical Care Nursing (AACN) and was awarded a scholarship to the organization’s national conference later this month.

Her essay, titled “Starting Now, Light at the End of the Tunnel,” describes working as a nurse during COVID-19.

“We as nurses were on the frontline of a battle we did not choose. Not only did we fear infection for ourselves, but we feared infecting our loved ones. The stress from this fear caused a cascade of depression, anxiety, tension, anger, and many other psychological demises among nurses and other healthcare professions. Physical and emotional exhaustion was at its peak. . . It was as if we were in a dark tunnel of despair with no hope of returning to normalcy,” Coxey wrote. As a senior nurse in Medical ICU at IU Health University Hospital, Coxey saw firsthand the pandemic’s death and despair. She is a charge nurse in the unit and began her career as a nursing student in the same unit in 1989.

Her essay continues: “Would we ever escape and find the light at the end of the tunnel? The many challenges that we were to overcome seemed to be never-ending, ranging from staffing issues to staff illnesses related to Covid-19. . . Not only was our work life suffering, but Covid-19 resulted in many difficult ties in our family life as well. Our children now were homeschooled. How were we to manage both working and finding childcare for our children, fearing also that we may bring home the virus to our loved ones? Would nursing ever survive this battle?”

Coxey’s original painting illustrates a nurse reaching to the sun - looking for light at the end of the tunnel. She continues with , “As time passed, nursing began to identify the stressors and came up with ways to cope by managing our feelings and fears. Nurses began to find ways to protect themselves by maintaining a safer environment around them . . . As time passed, nursing adapted to changes and met challenges head on as they arose,” wrote Coxey. She continues: “Starting now, we will take what we have learned from experiences with Covid-19 and apply that knowledge to any future pandemic or adversity that awaits us. We must realize that this battle is not completely over, but we as nurses possess the tools to keep fighting. We will have restored faith in our profession as we realize that we are capable of adapting to any new challenges and situations in our mist. We will be bold and courageous in our mission. “

Coxey said growing up the second of four, she watched her mother encouraging and helping others. She watched her as she taught Sunday School, survived cancer, and served others. When Coxey was 13, she began babysitting for five children and continued that job until she was 17.

“I always thought I wanted to work with children at Riley Hospital but when I got the job in MICU, I knew it was where I am meant to be.” In addition to caring for the patients at bedside, she has started a drive to collect items for families - socks, clipboards, hair ties, reading glasses, phone chargers, clothing, coloring books and puzzles. Many of her patients come to the hospital with little notice and families live far away.

“I really like helping other people and making patients and their families feel better.” Coxey is the mother to a daughter and two sons, and a grandmother to two boys.