Lights, camera, action: How this Nursing grad found success on and off screen

By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations

Marissa Bruchmann’s Nursing degree was exactly what she needed to bridge the gap between her two passions: health care and the film industry.

“I got involved in the film industry right after high school,” says Marissa, who worked as an extra and background actor for film and TV while she attended Douglas. “It was mostly for fun and a way to make extra money. When my agent discovered I was studying to become a nurse, she told me there were a lot of opportunities for nurses in the film industry. The rest is history.”

Bound for Douglas College

Despite her love of film, Marissa always knew she wanted to be a nurse.

“I’ve always had a passion for helping people,” says Marissa. “When my grandma was in a care home, I saw how the nurses treated her and how they made a huge difference in my family’s understanding and ability to cope when health issues arose – especially around the time she passed away. I just really wanted to be that person for someone else’s family.”

Having experienced the importance of nurses in her own life, Marissa wanted to find a nursing program that would equip her with the critical skills she needed to succeed. So, she chose Douglas because of the close-knit environment and one on one time with instructors.

For Marissa, the smaller class sizes made a huge difference in her success.

“You have a more professional and closer relationship with your instructors than at a larger institution. I really like this aspect, because I wasn’t just a number in a big lecture hall. I got to know my peers and instructors – my future colleagues – on a daily basis.”

Through her preceptorship (the clinical practicum component of the program), Marissa honed her classroom skills in different hospitals, from Surrey Memorial Hospital’s surgical unit to Royal Columbian’s orthopedics ward. 

She also took part in Fraser Health Authority’s Employed Student Nursing program, where soon-to-be nursing grads get paid to work while refining their skills in a clinical setting. She found herself back at Royal Columbian Hospital, where she discovered her love for emergency medicine.

“There’s a sense of teamwork and collaborative problem-solving between all levels of staff in the emergency department that I really enjoyed,” says Marissa. “I also liked how varied the work was – when you’re on a medical floor, the detective work has already been done, and you know their diagnosis right away. In emergency, everyone works together to figure out what is going on and what a patient’s symptoms could mean.” 

Read more: how three Douglas alumni have had to pivot the way they work in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic  

Ready for her close up

Marissa the Baby Wrangler

For Marissa, combining her passion for film and nursing was easy. With over five years of experience in the film industry, she was well-versed in the lingo, how to move around set, how to act around cast and crew and the different stages of production.

“I’ve been a baby wrangler, also known as a baby nurse,” Marissa says of her role on the show A Million Little Things. “When you have a baby on set and onscreen, for example if you’re filming a birthing scene or there is a baby who is a character, production has to abide by B.C. child labour laws and specific safety regulations. They need a qualified nurse who has skills in neonatal care, like me.”

But Marissa’s unique blend of expertise isn’t only being used behind the scenes. She’s played an on-screen nurse on shows like The Good Doctor, where her skills and knowledge add realism to emergency and operating room scenes. 

“The film industry was always a dream I decided to pursue to see if it went anywhere,” Marissa says. “I’m grateful that I get to mix my two passions that are so drastically different but mesh perfectly.”

Doing what she loves

Despite the pandemic, Marissa has been busier than ever as she works on the frontlines in Surrey Memorial Hospital’s emergency department and in Royal Columbian Hospital’s maternity ward. Unable to work as a baby nurse due to increased safety precautions on sets, Marissa has also been working with a company that provides COVID-19 screening services for cast and crew in the film industry.   

It sounds like a lot, but Marissa says the duality of her career is critical for her success.

“Working in both the hospital and in film means I don’t get burnt out,” says Marissa. “Working in the emergency and maternity wards are incredibly rewarding, but you’re constantly in high stress situations. By balancing it out with film, I make sure I’m still enjoying my work and not losing the passion that made me choose this career.

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