Your Stories

An Interview with Melissa Oliver, Cardiovascular Perfusionist

Please give us your name, credentials, and professional title.

Melissa Oliver, CCP  Cardiovascular Perfusionist

Tell us a bit about your job and reason behind entering your profession.

My main responsibility is to control the cardiopulmonary bypass machine during open-heart surgery, which essentially keeps patients alive while the heart and lungs are stopped in order for the surgeon to perform the necessary surgery. There are ancillary job responsibilities that have evolved from this, such as ECMO (bedside cardiopulmonary support) and HIPEC (delivering hyperthermic chemotherapy), but this is my day-to-day job responsibility. 

I wanted to be a perfusionist because I wanted to do something that helped people, but I didn’t want to be a doctor. One day I observed a surgery in which a baby had a hole in his heart repaired. I was awestruck that I witnessed a baby’s life being changed. I went home and changed majors immediately because I wanted to be part of a team that could improve babies’ lives. 

What makes you most proud about celebrating AAPI month?

Growing up without diversity, I always felt marginalized because of how I looked. Being able to celebrate AAPI month with my colleagues helps me feel less lonely because I’m part of something bigger. To be a Filipina who is celebrating AAPI month the same time as Nurses Week reminds me that I am part of a heritage that makes up about 20% of California nurses. I’m part of an important community that has a lot to offer the world, especially when the world closed down. Although I am not a nurse, I am proud to celebrate alongside those who represent our culture with empathy, grace, and hard work. 

What advice would you give to someone looking to mirror your career?

Diversify. I love the mental challenge of Cardiothoracic surgery, but sometimes it can be too stressful. Burnout is a harsh reality in healthcare, so find a way to be able to take care of yourself while taking care of others. It sounds difficult and non-traditional but I guarantee you will do a better job, have a long career, and live a happier life if you have something other than work to look forward to. It can be a side hustle or just a hobby, as long as you’re making time for yourself you will be happier in your career.

Why do you love Gales?!

I love Gales because they are light which makes them easy on my knees. But most of all, I’m always tired so I love that I don’t ever need to tie my shoes! I never wear shoes that tie to/from work. It’s so hard to stand back up after tying my shoes after a 14-hour day. I don’t know why, but that’s my non-negotiable.  Someone out there knows what I’m talking about!