Health care leaders are increasingly asked to do more with less. As Manager of Clinical Services at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), Melanie Achen has been a role model for other nursing administrators by always striving to overcome these kinds of challenges to get the most for her patients.
“Melanie has effective program management, evaluating and adapting daily processes to ensure scarce resources are used in the best possible way,” says colleague and Medical Director Gina Ogilvie. “Melanie has over 50 nurses who report to her, as well as frontline nursing staff and an operating budget of $3 million that cannot go into deficit. Through careful stewardship, she is always able to staff clinical services, support education and research at our clinical sites and accommodate cost constraints in our fixed budget environment.”
In Melanie’s present role, she leads the provincial STI clinic, tuberculosis clinics and outreach programs. Her far-ranging operational support responsibilities cover human resources, quality improvement, organizational initiatives and budgets. Her prior experience as a frontline nurse, health educator, supervisor and leader help account for an exceptional knowledge base in her fields of expertise — but she’s also bold enough to apply what she’s learned in innovative ways. “When she took on her current position, she saw that managing laboratory results was taking up considerable nursing resources without a corresponding benefit to patients,” says Registered Nurse Cheryl Campbell. “Melanie led a careful review of how lab results were managed, identifying several quick wins that resulted in streamlined management and improved patient care.”
Melanie was instrumental in the implementation of CRNBC Certified Practice. As part of the initial working group, she played a key role in the development of the competencies and Decision Support Tools for STI Certified Practice which authorizes RNs to independently diagnose and treat some STIs. She also supported new ideas such as immediate staging for HIV, monitoring for antimicrobial resistance for STI’s, electronic record keeping for the provincial STI clinic and launching of a new tuberculosis team. These and other innovative ideas have led to major changes in practice locally and throughout the province.
As Melanie has implemented many difficult health care management decisions, she has always shown exceptional clarity, professionalism and diplomacy — all while meeting organizational goals. “Melanie does an exceptional job of making our workplace’s priorities come alive for our nurses, inspiring excellence,” Campbell says.
A proactive leader, Melanie encourages nurses to conduct research at BCCDC, producing a culture of nursing practice inquiry that enhances best practices in STI and TB nursing care. She also engages staff to document workflows and streamline processes — in these ways, she helps nurses reach their full potential as co-researchers, recognized authors and fellow leaders who have a real stake in seeing the system improve.
Even on a very personal level, Melanie’s leadership is an inspiration. “Melanie has been a mentor to me,” says Registered Nurse Nash Dhalla. “Her attention to detail, clear-headed nature and good humor in the face of adversity have been inspiring to me as a nurse.” Every day, Melanie Achen’s steadfastness and progressive mindset helps to deliver first-rate health care to a grateful public.