Melanie Garner, RN, works full-time at Norman Regional Health System and owns a restaurant on the side.

by Mike Lee
Staff Writer
The Norman Regional Health System badge worn by Melanie Garner, RN, reads CDI.
That’s healthcare speak for Clinical Documentation Improvement.
During the day, Garner is pouring over charts, doing reviews and making sure the documentation is specific and paints an accurate picture of each patient.
It’s a full eight hours but by the time Garner finishes her duties in Norman, her day isn’t even half over.
With 13 years as a nurse – the last two at Norman Regional – Garner’s life extends well beyond health care.
When she’s not working in Norman she’s at the pizza restaurant she owns with her husband in Newcastle.
When she’s not there she also serves on the board of an animal rescue. One year ago she began working with Friends of the Shelter Foundation and fosters animals at her home.
In her spare time she goes to school online pursuing her BSN and has three boys, all involved in sports.
“I don’t sleep much,” Garner deadpanned.
Life as a Garner is crazy. It’s a combination of scheduling, commitment, dedication, pizza and sports. And throw in a few dogs and homework for good measure.
The idea of running a restaurant was sort of a personal dream.
“I worked in the food industry when I was younger. I’ve always enjoyed cooking and a couple years ago we discussed that Newcastle needed a small restaurant,” she said. “We figured if we were going to do it now’s the time.”
When the Garners were ready to pull the trigger a small pizza restaurant opened overnight. Both thought it was a sign that maybe now wasn’t the best time.
That sign quickly changed when the for sale sign was hung up at the restaurant.
So the couple purchased Gizmo’s and changed the name to the Racer Pit Stop.
Garner is there usually every day, checking in after her shift at the hospital to make sure everything is going OK.
“Everyone loves the pizza,” she says. “It was already a great product so we didn’t really change anything. We’ve added some new items to kind of help diversify.”
Football, basketball and baseball keep her three boys busy.
“A lot of teamwork and skilfull scheduling,” Garner says with a laugh how she gets around to everything.
She will finish her BSN program soon, which will help. That one was a personal goal.
“I’ve had my associates for 12 years,” she said.
So with all the free time she’ll have once she finishes her program, will an advanced practice degree come next?
“I’ve thought about it,” Garner said. “I’m not sure. It will depend because we are so busy.”
So is cloning involved?
A typical day for Garner begins at 5:30 a.m. She gets the boys up and gets her two youngest to school. If she didn’t go in the night before she heads to the restaurant for bookkeeping.
Then it’s off to Norman where she works her eight-hour shift.
She leaves work and runs any errands that need to be done for the restaurant, including picking up any last-minute supplies.
From there she takes her boys to their various practices or to their games.
In the winter there’s three basketball games per week, not including practices.
Then there’s the matter of dinner.
“I try to get the boys something to eat that doesn’t come from the restaurant,” Garner said. “Usually it involves throwing something in the crockpot. I’ve gotten really good at Pinterest crockpot meals.”
All three help at the restaurant. The youngest – who is 10 – likes to work the counter. The oldest wipes down tables.
“We’re trying to make it a family business,” she said. “They’re very helpful. I’m working on the dishwashing but that’s not quite gotten there yet.”
With as busy as the Garner household stays the Norman Regional nurse has made sure there’s a lengthy chore list for her boys to tackle at home.
“They have to do chores,” Garner said.
Her boys are also the official welcome wagon for all new rescue puppies that come home with Garner.
“I spend a lot of time talking to my husband on the phone,” she said. “It’s dedication and commitment. Before we make any decisions we ask each other.”
Garner’s husband also has a full-time job working IT at FAA. He also helps coach the Newcastle varsity basketball team.
It’s a crazy life, but Garner wouldn’t have it any other way.