How a recent graduate returned to the ER as a nurse during medical school


“I love being a nurse,” Megan Ross, D.O., R.N., says. She beams when she talks about her experience working as a nurse for four years before attending the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“It’s such a privilege to be there with the patients at the bedside. I love what nursing is and what nurses do for patients. I have such a huge respect for the profession. But ultimately, I didn’t want to regret not going to medical school,” she explains.

Ross, who graduated earlier this month from MSUCOM, completed her medical school prerequisite courses and applied to osteopathic medicine programs while working full time as an emergency room nurse at Ascension Providence Hospital. The College of Osteopathic Medicine was the top choice for this Detroit area native, who also attended the MSU College of Nursing for undergrad.

“I fell in love with the ER immediately,” she continues. Her experience and love for the “close-knit, big family” feel of the ER has inspired her to become an osteopathic physician and go into emergency medicine for her residency at Detroit Receiving ER, her top-choice program.

In March 2020, Ross was almost through the end of her third year of medical school when the COVID-19 patients began filling ERs and medical students were pulled from classrooms and clinical rotations.

“All my former coworkers were on social media saying how much they needed help, how scared they were. I was sitting at home doing online school with a nursing license sitting under my bed. I had this ability to go back to help and I felt compelled to use it. I had the skill set and drive and love for the profession. When you know there’s a need you have to go to it,” she explains of her decision to join the front lines.

After discussing the possibility of resuming work in the ER with MSUCOM advisors, family and her former boss at Ascension Providence, Ross worked out a schedule that allowed her to continue her online education while picking up shifts during weekends and days off.

“It was the right thing to do, and I needed to do it for myself,” she says.

Within a week of volunteering to go back to work, she was fully suited up in PPE and in the hospital ER.

“I was terrified. I hadn’t done anything nursing related in three years and all of a sudden, I’m entering a hospital in the middle of a global pandemic not knowing what had changed. But it all came back within a few hours,” she says of her first shift back.  

“The nurses welcomed me back with open arms. They were so grateful to have help and a familiar face.” But the reality is that “people were scared, having real conversations about ‘this is what you have to do if I get sick.’ Nurses and doctors were living in their garages to isolate from their families. The sacrifice and difference nurses and physicians were making was awe-inspiring. I’m speechless,” she reflects.

Ross has been one of the many health care workers sacrificing and making a difference for over a year now. While she’s still working in the ER now, she will soon step back after graduation to give herself time to recharge before starting residency.

She managed to juggle this grueling schedule thanks to “the best support system in the world.” The hospital gave her the flexibility to pick her schedule and fit in shifts to accommodate her school responsibilities. Coworkers switched shifts with her, and her family planned events around her availability.

Her final advice to peers is: “Listen to the nurses! They’re the ones who are with the patient the most and their concerns are valid. Take them seriously. They’re a huge resource for our class as we start our residency and clinical rotations. The nurses will get us through residency.”

Ross’s inspiring actions add greatly to the SpartanDO legacy of practicing the art of caring and the science of medicine to save lives, create healthier communities and exemplify the compassion all physicians should show to their patients.