Kicking off the semester with new faculty — Maryellen Phillips

Interview by Madinah Muhammad

Alumna Maryellen Phillips, MSN’11 (Metro), has worked in many aspects of nursing, from mental health to administration and management. Now, she’s joined Fairleigh Dickinson University as a clinical instructor for The Henry P. Becton School of Nursing & Allied Health. Phillips is currently working on her doctorate and holds three graduate degrees: a master’s in health administration from New Jersey City University, an MBA from Montclair State University and her degree from FDU.

Maryellen Phillips
FDU: What drew you to FDU?

Maryellen Phillips: I have had a relationship with FDU for the past 10 years, as student and educator. Initially, I was approached to teach the Introduction to Health Care Economics course at a time when the Henry P. Becton School of Nursing and Allied Health needed to replace an instructor. With my career in nursing administration and management, the faculty and staff felt I would be a great fit as a clinical instructor. I also teach the Professional Communication Skills for nursing course.

I admire and respect the staff and faculty in the School of Nursing and Allied Health. They are not only role models, but also provide me with the encouragement needed to pursue my doctorate in this field.

FDU: What did you do in your nursing career prior to FDU?

MP: My clinical specialty is in psychiatric mental health nursing, so most of my career has been working with that patient population. I also worked in other areas of nursing — medical, post-operative patient, oncology, inpatient and outpatient. With that clinical specialty, I also developed a specialty in nursing administration and management. In one of my roles, I was responsible for student placement and hired FDU graduates for open positions in the organization I worked for.

FDU: What are some of the main differences between working in the field and teaching in the classroom?

MP: The main difference is the focus of interaction. My interaction with students draws me to being more of an educator — it is the enthusiasm, motivation, and curiosity of students that inspires me as a practitioner. It is a mutually beneficial relationship, because I also get a lot of satisfaction in being able to share my knowledge and experiences about what is really happening in the world of healthcare.

FDU: How do you encourage and motivate students when they are facing challenges in class?

MP: I always reinforce with my students that I am available for them outside the classroom if they need extra advisement, have any issues with the materials or managing their time to complete assignments.

One exercise I do in class is to have students provide me with a personal biography. It allows students the opportunity to reflect on themselves by answering a series of questions: What prompted them to enter the program? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What is their background? Are they working? This allows me to get to know students as individuals and the class as a whole. With this information, I am better able to determine how many demands a student has on their time.

FDU: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

MP: People may be surprised to know that I enjoy playing the guitar and am a fan of bluegrass music.

Another surprise is that I recently adopted a shelter dog named Spark. I am taking him through his instructions for obedience training and hopefully leading him to his new career as a therapy dog. He has three more classes until he completes his training to be a certified therapy dog. Then he will visit residents of nursing homes and engage them in reminiscence-focused pet therapy activities. Reminiscence therapy is an effective way to connect with a person who has dementia and to help manage some of the more distressing symptoms of the illness.