Thrive by IU Health

March 22, 2021

Nurse is a ‘Teacher’ in a Different Classroom

Nurse is a ‘Teacher’ in a Different Classroom

She just completed 30 years at IU Health and Nurse Melissa Coxey is realizing her career path came with an unexpected reward.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes,

She was working in the guidance counselor’s office at Whiteland High School when Melissa Coxey received a tip. She wanted to be a teacher but her guidance counselor told her she’d make a good nurse.

“I don’t regret my decision for one minute but sometimes in the back of my mind I wonder how I would have been as an educator,” said Coxey.

What she didn’t realize is that she is an educator. On her medical intensive care unit at University Hospital Coxey has coached a number of fellow nurses daily.

“Hundreds of nurses have been bettered by Melissa’s guidance and support. She has taught me no matter the scenario we must hold our heads high and keep the patient’s goals and needs in the forefront,” said Brandi Kopsas-Kingsley MICU shift coordinator.

Kopsas-Kingsley said she remembers a time, as a new nurse, when a patient became confused and acted out towards the staff. “The air in the room was thick with tension and anger. Then in floats Melissa calms the man down and deescalates the situation. I stood there with my jaw on the floor mesmerized by Melissa’s calm presence. This is one of many memories that has forever helped me become a better nurse,” said Kopsas-Kingsley.

After graduation from high school Coxey enrolled in IUPU and received her degree from IU School of Nursing. She began practicing at IU Health as a student on the MICU and has stayed there ever since.

“I had a clinical instructor who worked on the fourth floor and she helped us set up interviews. I guess I’m a little old-fashioned in that I am loyal to the unit so I’ve stayed,” said Coxey. “I still have the same best friend since grade school. I have made wonderful friends at work and I have been a single mom since 1997 and had to do it by myself. So I like the patients, the consistency and I’m grounded,” said Coxey, who also serves as a charge nurse and preceptor, working closely with new nurses.

What has changed in the past three decades?

“When I first started it was a five-bed unit and now we have 18 beds,” said Coxey. “We now chart through the computer and through a lot of evidence-based practices we are seeing more patients getting better,” she said.

She has lost count of the number of patients she has cared for over the years, but she says she remembers names. There are some who will never fade from her memory.

“Several years ago a young lady in her 30s came in and needed multiple surgeries,” said Coxey. “She and her husband had lots of needs and she was just the sweetest patient. I had cared for her multiple times for months. There were so many things that caused her pain. On the day she died, I was there and able to hold her hand and help console her husband. It was before we had social workers so I was the one they turned to for comfort and it made me realize it’s all worth it.”

There are a number of patients she has cared for who beat the odds – many times.

“They have been told many times there wasn’t much of a chance and then kept fighting through. To see that strength is inspiring,” said Coxey, who is certified as a critical care registered nurse and also has training in ventilator-associated pneumonia. “I am proud to be part of a hard-working team – people who genuinely care about their patients and each other. I love the people I work with and I’ve made a lot of great friendships,” said Coxey. The MICU team recently received the Infection Prevention Pathway Bronze Award and also the Beacon Award, presented by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), recognizing the nation’s top critical care units.

Coxey is the mother to two boys, 27 and 21, and a daughter 26. She also has two grandchildren, 7 and 9.