Personal Experience Informs Good Shepherd RN’s Bedside Care

March 08, 2022

Melissa A. Love, RN, CRRN, on why she decided to pursue a nursing career

A stroke at age 20 sent Melissa A. Love, RN, CRRN, on a different life path.

Studying journalism at Penn State University, Melissa felt strange during an exam. She had experienced unusual headaches for several days prior, and when she tried to raise her right hand or talk, she suddenly couldn’t. After going to the hospital and being told it was a migraine, she returned to her dorm.

But, the symptoms persisted for days. As she studied for finals, Melissa couldn’t make out letters or numbers. Melissa returned home to Philadelphia, saw neurologists and finally received answers: it was a stroke localized to her left temporal lobe.

To recover, Melissa left school and spent nearly a year in speech and occupational therapy to re-learn basic skills, including reading. It was a humbling experience, she says.

“I struggled with depression, poor self-esteem and feelings of uncertainty about my future,” says Melissa. “A brain injury goes to the core of your identity, who you are and how you view yourself as a person. I had to redefine myself and some life goals. I had to give up aspirations of being a reporter where I’d have to write quickly under tight deadlines.”

Melissa eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Temple University and worked for nearly a decade as a health and science writer. But even today, she struggles with word-finding and speed of processing. Additionally, 12 years after her stroke, Melissa was diagnosed with lupus, a multisystem autoimmune disorder.

“It was determined that my stroke was secondary to a blood-clotting disorder associated with lupus,” says Melissa. “The good news in all of this is that I finally received a proper diagnosis, and my lupus is well-managed.”

Frustration Leads to Career Inspiration

Melissa’s frustrations in navigating the health system and “feeling heard” by providers inspired her to change careers and pursue nursing.

“Nurses always listened to me with compassion and empathy,” she recalls. “They advocated on my behalf. They didn’t treat me like a symptom or a disease, but as a person.”

Melissa A. Love, RN, CRRN, on why she decided to pursue a nursing career

Melissa’s career change led her to complete the CNA training program at Good Shepherd before ultimately becoming a registered nurse. She worked several years at Good Shepherd Specialty Hospital before leaving to explore other clinical settings. In 2019, she returned to the Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital in Allentown and Rehab 4, the traumatic brain injury unit. Melissa says her personal experiences inform how she treats patients and their families during a difficult time in their lives. She never forgets the feeling of being a patient and working at Good Shepherd allows her to prioritize comfort, compassion and human dignity in her nursing practice.

“I know what it’s like to struggle with concentration, memory and word-finding,” says Melissa. “I understand pain, physical and emotional. I remember how frustrated, frightened and helpless I felt at times, as well as how uplifted, inspired and confident I could feel, depending upon how I was cared for. It’s deeply rewarding to see patients and families progress in their recovery and to know that you were a part of that recovery process.”

In her spare time, Melissa is a certified yoga teacher with specialized training in adaptive and therapeutic yoga for persons with limited mobility or chronic conditions.

“I love making yoga accessible, and I rely on yoga practices to live well with a chronic illness,” says Melissa.

To learn more about RN careers and our sign-on bonus program, as well as other employment opportunities at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network, visit our Careers page.