Emma Melton

Emma Melton graduated this weekend as the College of Nursing undergraduate student marshal with plans to head to a dual degree DNP program at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a job lined up at as a labor and delivery nurse at Mercyhealth Javon Bea Hospital. (Photo by August Jennewein)

There’s being busy. Then there’s being Emma Melton busy.

The University of Missouri–St. Louis student may have done close to everything available to her while studying to earn a BSN from the College of Nursing. Melton has been a desk assistant in Oak Hall, then a resident advisor and then a resident director, a first-year experience mentor for nursing and an UMSL Ambassador. She’s also worked her way up the ranks in the Student Nurse Association, serving as president for a year and a half.

That’s not even to mention participating in the UMSL/BJC Summer Nurse Externship or working as a student nurse tech or – perhaps most importantly – excelling in her UMSL classes.

But packing her schedule full isn’t just a challenge to be overcome for Melton. It’s all about finding the right balance.

“Being busy has been the secret,” Melton said. “It forces me create a schedule. It forces me to stick to a schedule and get things done when I have the time because, otherwise, I don’t have the time. Being busy has forced me to develop time-management skills and work in my free time.”

Those efforts have paid off for Melton. Last weekend, she graduated magna cum laude, serving as the undergraduate student marshal for the College of Nursing.

But that doesn’t mean she’ll be less busy. In the fall, Melton will be starting a dual degree doctor of nursing practice program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, studying to become both a women’s health provider and a nurse midwife. Meanwhile, she’ll be working as a labor and delivery nurse at Mercyhealth Javon Bea Hospital–Riverside.

When she thinks ahead to the fall, Melton doesn’t picture the challenge of balancing full-time work and school but of what the program will allow her to accomplish.

“I applied to this program because of the opportunity to provide comprehensive care and educate women throughout their lives in all aspects of care, rather than just a specific part,” Melton said. “I’ll get to build these relationships and educate women and provide care in every aspect from in the clinical setting in a hospital setting to giving birth.

“That’s why I chose to do this dual focus because then I can – I think – provide the most care and make the most difference.”

Though Melton’s passion for women’s health came from her time at UMSL, her interest in nursing preceded college.

When she was in high school, two of Melton’s friends passed away after separate car accidents. Those experiences made her want to go into a medical profession.

“I wanted to have a career where I can truly help others, knowing all the care that they received,” she said, “But also just being inspired by their lives and knowing that I need to have a career or live a life where I can wake up every day and know that I’m going into work to make a difference. That inspired me to go into nursing.”

Melton, who is from the small town of Morrison, Illinois, spent her first semester at University of Illinois Springfield but quickly realized it wasn’t a good fit.

She started to look for schools to transfer to and attended UMSL Day.

There, she quickly became impressed with the student speaker from the College of Nursing.

“He was very well spoken and inspirational,” Melton said. “He just seemed so professional and at the point in his life that I wanted to be. I was like, ‘I want to be up there someday.’ If he’s in this program, I know that it is doing something great for him. I want to be in a program like this.”

That sealed her choice. Aware that, as a transfer student, she was a year behind on making friends, Melton decided to take the desk assistant job in the hopes that being involved on campus would help.

That decision ended up shaping her time at UMSL.

“Staying involved has helped me grow and build those skills and connections that I otherwise wouldn’t have,” she said. “Coming from a small town, I didn’t get to see a diverse population and learn about different types of people. Being so involved, I’ve met so many different types of people with different backgrounds. Being in these organizations, I’ve been able to see and meet all these people and learn about different cultures. That’s been a really awesome thing about it as well.”

An invaluable part of Melton’s UMSL experience has been working as a student nurse tech and the summer nurse externship program, which gave her the chance to practice the skills she’s learned in school in an acute care setting.

It was through those experiences that she was able to spend more time with Assistant Teaching Professor Michelle Barrier, who has become something of a mentor for Melton.

That’s all in addition to Melton’s academic experiences at UMSL – pushing through prerequisite classes, entering the nursing program, finding her passion in women’s health, and being “shocked and humbled” to be named student marshal.

Which brings her back to that moment at UMSL Day, wanting to be just like the student speaker – and feeling like she got there.

“It’s so surreal,” she said. “I feel like I’m that student now who can share my own advice to some of the younger students. I feel so much more confident and professional and have built so many skills through all the things I’ve been involved with on campus and nursing. UMSL has done me very well.”

Jessica Rogen

Jessica Rogen