Meet Dr. Marjorie McCullagh, Sally L Lusk Collegiate Professor of Nursing, Director of the Occupational Health Nursing Program, and Professor in the Master of Science (MSN) in Nursing in Leadership, Analytics and Innovation (LAI) at University of Michigan School of Nursing. A veteran educator with extensive experience in the nursing field, Dr. McCullagh’s recent research has included workplace health and efforts to craft a safer work environment in relation to the toxic exposures that are commonplace for health care professionals.
How did you get involved in promoting workplace health and a healthy work environment as it relates to eliminating toxic exposures?
I first became interested in promoting a healthy workplace when I worked as a nurse in acute care. I had this sense that our workspace was a revolving door of people and biological materials, and I didn’t like the idea of cleaning up the messes that resulted from people’s illnesses and injuries. I really wanted to get in front of the potential risks and harmful elements, so I began to explore the preventive side of the issue, as opposed to the ‘fix-it’ side. I had always had an interest in occupational health, and I found that this space was a perfect match for me, especially since occupational health is focused on upstream thinking, as we call it, and that’s just another word for prevention. And that matched my ideals very well.
What other roles and organizations are you involved with outside the classroom?
Let’s see: In addition to the School of Nursing governance, I serve on a number of committees and groups that work to improve the quality of the curriculum and relations between University of Michigan’s faculty and students, and the quality of the learning experience as a whole. I’m very active in a number of professional organizations, many of which are nursing-related. Other groups are interdisciplinary and relate to my experience as a public health professional. I do a lot of work with people in related fields such as engineering and public health, infection control, environmental health and safety, a variety of different organizations and disciplines.
How are your professional and research experiences incorporated into the curriculum, and also incorporated into your teaching style?
I love talking about my research; just give me any opportunity, and I will tell you about some of the exciting things that I’ve been exploring lately. I try to do that in such a way that students have an opportunity to see how some of the theories and concepts in whatever course I happen to be teaching actually get played out in real life. Some people find theories boring, but not me. There’s an expression in the business, “there’s nothing as good as a good theory.” Theories and the concepts and research behind them are really very interesting and useful. One of the most rewarding experiences I had recently was when one of my recent graduates volunteered to me that one of the strengths of the project he just finished was that he used theoretical frameworks to guide what he did in his clinical project. For him, theory offered a great advantage over what his peers had done. And that made me so happy to hear. I thought, ‘My gosh, he really gets it.”
What makes the U-M MSN in LAI program and learning experience unique compared to the other MSN programs?
I think that the faculty in this program have done an outstanding job at doing what I might call market analysis: going out to nursing leaders and asking, “What do you need? What kind of practitioner are you looking for? What kind of leadership do you want in your organization?” And then, using that information to construct a specialty program in nursing. The MSN program at Michigan has done a stellar job of tightening up its design so that the content is not only very relevant, but also accurately articulated, sequenced and presented in a way that leaves students highly engaged and immediately ready to go out and apply what they’ve learned in a real world setting.
What advice would you give prospective nursing students interested in the U-M MSN in LAI program?
Coming to Michigan is like coming home. On its surface, it may look like a big school, but students shouldn’t be intimidated by that. The reality is, the School of Nursing is really a very homey place. In it, there are plenty of opportunities for you to connect with students and faculty and to form very meaningful relationships that will help take you where you want to go, in your career and in life.