Staff Spotlight, Melissa Dahl
Tell us about yourself!
Hello, I am Melissa (she/her), and I am a Registered Nurse at the Anna Westin House for Adults (AWH) located in St. Paul, Minnesota. I’ve been at AWH for almost three years and currently work straight overnights, which I love. Before nursing, I was a medical assistant and worked in a maternity care center and an OBGYN clinic! I also do some volunteer EMS work for a small town close to where I grew up.
Describe the path that led you to The Emily Program.
I’ve always had a passion for healthcare but not always in the direction of typical medicine; due to some poor personal experiences, I have tended to resonate with a more holistic approach. I knew I wanted to change the patient experience but didn’t know what path or field I wanted because I had interests in several areas of healthcare (emergency medicine, pediatrics, labor, delivery/women’s care, and finally, MENTAL HEALTH!). Part of what I love about nursing is the ability to move around to different specialties and passions. I decided to follow my interest in mental health as there is still such a large stigma and I didn’t personally know many people who wanted to take this on professionally.
What led me to TEP is my interest in substance use disorders (SUDs)/recovery support and the incredible crossover and similarities between SUDs and eating disorders (EDs). I had a friend who was working for TEP, and although I really didn’t know much about EDs, I knew she loved the culture of the company, so I decided to interview and here we are.
What motivates you to show up for work each day?
Knowing our work does make a difference and being a part of such an amazing team. I love my work family and what each team brings to the table to help our clients.
What do you wish everyone knew about eating disorders?
How common and deadly they are! EDs are not a choice! They don’t have a “look” or a type! All genders, identities, races, backgrounds, ages, shapes, and sizes can suffer from an eating disorder. Also, it’s important for people to know that if you do have questions or concerns about someone around you, approach with curiosity, and know there is support for you as a support person, not just the individual who is suffering. Just like with many other diseases and disorders, there is not a quick fix or one-size-fits-all solution, but there is hope and recovery is possible.
What three words would you use to describe The Emily Program?
Work in progress—that is meant as the utmost compliment. I see the company and its individuals continuing to grow and learn daily. I think that it is a gift to not sit stagnant in the knowledge we have or things we think we know and always be open to learning and growing to better ourselves, our profession, and the world. I recently attended the 10th Annual Veritas Collaborative Symposium on Eating Disorders with class topics such as “Genes, Environment, and Eating Disorders: What the Clinician Needs to Know,” and it’s amazing what we are continuing to learn, including the genetic crossover between EDs and so many other things that we never even imagined could be related or linked.
What’s something you’re proud of?
Advancing my education and becoming a nurse. I honestly wasn’t the greatest student in elementary, junior high, or high school with topics either being too easy or too hard and my young mind not seeing why I should try so hard. This is partly why I went for medical assisting before nursing, as it seemed less intimidating at the time. I knew nursing school was very competitive and I didn’t think I would make it. When I found my niche in healthcare, I did very well in school and didn’t care how much work it took, as I had an end goal in mind of working in my dream career and hoping to make a difference.
What are three things most people don’t know about you?
Well, I like to do “Fun Fact Friday” with my residents during vitals, so I know I have shared some of these with residents and coworkers but three things that come to mind are… I am an only child, I grew up in an earth home (this seems to be a popular one because it creates great conversations as most people have no idea what this is), and I had lots of fun pets as a child including a pet goat named Sally The Camel and a ferret named Mr. Mischief.