From Injury To Nurse Entrepreneur of The Year, Mel’s Story

8 Min Read Published November 1, 2023
From Injury To Nurse Entrepreneur of The Year, Mel’s Story

How a “happy accident” led one nurse to develop an entirely new career, sharing hope and positivity. 

Melanie “Mel” Van Sistine, BSN, RN (@mels.crafty.corner), was named by the nursing community as's Best of Nursing Awards Nurse Entrepreneur of the Year who both nominated and voted for her, is a nurse who has witnessed a lot of challenges in her evolving career. 

After failing her initial attempt at the NCLEX (after going through all 285 questions and sitting through the exam for the full 5.5 hours), she then went on to pass it and not only become a Pediatric Acute Care bedside nurse but also a three-time Daisy Award nominated charge nurse. Melanie is no stranger to facing a challenge head-on. 

However, when the COVID pandemic affected her patient population differently than some of her peers, she was canceled for nearly every shift she was scheduled for. Melanie faced a wake-up call to some of the challenges facing the nursing industry and the related negativity she experienced in the workplace.

She decided to make a change, creating a rainbow-themed T-shirt that symbolized hope for herself, her patients, and her fellow Peds nurses. That single T-shirt sparked a movement that today has led Melanie to run Mel’s Crafty Corner as a full-time business. Mel’s Crafty Corner makes and sells nurse-themed goodies, apparel, and digital products, and boasts over 61K followers on Instagram & 48K followers on TikTok. She participates in pop-up markets to connect with her customers as well as curated events to engage her community. had a chance to chat with Melanie to learn more about how she started her business, what it means to be a nurse entrepreneur, and what she hopes 2024 will hold for her. 


“A Happy Accident”


In Bob Ross-esque fashion, Melanie admits that her business was started by a “happy accident” after her shifts were canceled during the pandemic. 

Normally, Melanie kept busy working the night shift as an acute care pediatric nurse, specializing in GI/GU disorders, endocrinology, genetic abnormalities, and pulmonary concerns, as well as diabetic education and charge nursing. But her time away from the bedside sparked a newfound interest in sharing positivity with her creativity, which is where her first ‘viral’ rainbow-themed T-shirt was born. 

Melanie says that shirt simply “caught on” at work, so she began taking orders locally before creating a Shopify website and accepting orders from all over the country. Her desire to get serious with her apparel business was also sparked by an unfortunate back injury she suffered. 

Melanie says her injury was a “debilitating one,” where she had a mandatory six months off of work with doctor’s restrictions. “Thankfully the injury wasn’t bad enough to need spinal surgery, but it was bad enough to keep me from doing a job I am passionate about,” Melanie shares. And while the injury and the unknown it caused in her future were difficult, the silver lining was that it gave her more time to focus on her business and “find ways to keep supporting my fRNds (her business’s themed name for nurse friends) who may have suffered the same or in similar circumstances,” she adds. 

After months of physical therapy, medication, and a few minor procedures, she returned to work with a weight restriction per doctor's orders. Despite adhering to necessary precautions, Melanie's nursing career was hindered by persistent pain, prompting her to question whether her physical limitations could prematurely end her path in nursing. In September 2022, she made the difficult decision to step away from bedside nursing, choosing instead to devote herself entirely to her small business. This shift allowed her to embrace a new mission: to share her innate positivity and warmth with all those open to receiving it.


Faced with a challenging situation at work where she felt compelled to either endure a difficult environment silently or resign, Melanie found herself at a crossroads. This moment was particularly tough, as she had dedicated her entire career to nursing, envisioning it as her lifelong profession. However, acknowledging both her physical limitations and a desire for a positive change, Melanie embraced a new perspective. She recognized that while she might not have the power to transform the workplace culture, she could control her own path. This realization, coupled with a commitment to prioritize her well-being and advocate for patient safety, guided her to trust in herself and the new direction her life was taking.


Today, Melanie primarily sells apparel that she creates from the second bedroom of her apartment she shares with her husband and their dog, Chance. She sells her goods on her website (Shop Mel's Crafty Corner), as well as on the Adni Marketplace and TikTok Shop.

She sees the work she does as pouring into the nurses who continue to give so much to others. 

“We have grown a creative and supportive community where nurses can feel seen, appreciated, heard, and loved for the work they do on and off the floor,” Melanie notes. “I know firsthand how hard it is to not feel supported as a nurse and I do my best to make sure my nurse frRNds have someone in their coRNer!”

“Proud of My Authenticity”


Part of Melanie’s mission in her goods, as well as her overall life approach, is a focus on mental health. In fact, she says her personal favorite product is the “Build Your Own Mental Health” crewneck sweatshirt that offers customers the freedom to choose their color, design, and front or back placement. 

The sweatshirt features her first best-selling "Be Kind To Your Mind" design that she doodled during a dark point in my life. “My therapist often tells me–to this day to "be kind to yourself" and I wanted to create something to help remind me to do just that,” Melanie says. The sweatshirt also has the option to add a floral 'happy drug' component and choose between Serotonin, Dopamine, or Oxytocin.

“It was so much fun designing these and getting back into my Organic Chemistry days in nursing school,” Melanie says. “I think why I love it so much is because I know it has not only provided me with some peace and grace, but it has helped so many others in their mental health journey.”

Being open and honest about her own challenges, from mental to physical health, is a big part of what Melanie believes has been central to her success as an entrepreneur, and she stands behind sharing her full journey. 

“I'm proud of the work I have done in my mental health journey and being vulnerable with my audience about certain topics,” she says. “I am proud of my authenticity in showing all sides of me and my business, even if it means me showing me in tears. I'd rather be real, raw, and authentic, than fake and deceitful.” 


Life as a Nurse Entrepreneur 


So what does it really take to pivot from bedside nursing to being a full-time entrepreneur and running your own design and apparel business? Well, just like she learned when taking her NCLEX the first time, Melanie says sometimes it’s as simple as being okay with trying and failing along the way. 

“99% of my business has been from trial and error,” she admits. “It's actually been more along the lines of throwing things on the wall and seeing what sticks.”

She encourages other nurse entrepreneurs that it’s very normal to feel like you have “absolutely no idea” what you are doing, especially because business simply isn’t taught in nursing school. 

And even though there are many business and entrepreneurial resources available to new business owners just starting out, she says it can be a challenge to find the right ones for you and your individual business path. “What works for someone, might not work for me and vice versa,” she points out. 

But as a chronic pain sufferer from her back injury, Melanie knows how important it is to become your own advocate and find a way forward that works for you, which is exactly what she does day in and day out as a patient, nurse, and business owner. “Some days are better than others, but every day brings a challenge and a new opportunity,” she shares.

“I still have a persistent weight restriction and have to be mindful with certain positions, but I am thankful to be standing tall, moving, and getting stronger both physically and mentally!” Melanie adds.  

Looking Toward the Future


Despite all that she has accomplished already, in moving from bedside nursing to starting her own successful business, Melanie is excited for what the upcoming year might hold. Her goals are to physically expand her business with more space to grow and engage more with her community in new ways. She primes her followers to look forward to more Mel’s Crafy Corner real-life pop-ups, collaborations with fellow nurse entrepreneurs, and curated events for her community of like-minded nurses. 

Hopefully, 2024 will mean more room for activities,” Melanie notes with a smile. 

Going into the year as’s Nurse Entrepreneur of the Year is also a highlight for Melanie because she says it helps show that despite a lot of the questions and hesitations she faced in leaving her career as a nurse to start a full-time business, she really has succeeded in her goals. 

“This award means the world to me,” she says. “When I stepped away from nursing to pursue my passions, I was met with a lot of criticism for leaving. It was by far one of the hardest decisions I ever made. But I know it was the best decision for me.”

“To earn this award is proof that I did it, I made it happen,” she notes. “With the help of my online community and fRNds, I started and continue to run a successful business that aligns with the same passion and values they hold. I can’t thank my community enough for supporting me and allowing me the privilege to do something that brings so me so much joy.”

She also hopes other nurses and budding entrepreneurs will be inspired by her journey because she believes it’s proof that change—and chasing your dreams of combining work as a nurse with business—is possible. 

“Winning this award proves that if I can do it, nothing is stopping you from pursuing your passions and still empowering the community,” she says. “Even though I may not be practicing nursing at the moment, I am using my expertise and passion for healthcare to lift up my nurse fRNds and the healthcare community as a whole.”

Chaunie Brusie
Chaunie Brusie Contributor

Chaunie Brusie, BSN, RN is a nurse-turned-writer with experience in critical care, long-term care, and labor and delivery. Her work has appeared everywhere from Glamor to The New York Times to The Washington Post. Chaunie lives with her husband and five kids in the middle of a hay field in Michigan and you can find more of her work here

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