Getting to Know: Dr. Jean Marie Petrilack

Photo of Dr. Jean Marie PetrilackWith a specialty in Gerontological Nursing, Dr. Jean Marie Petrilack joins one of the top nursing schools in Philadelphia, Holy Family University’s School of Nursing and Allied Health Professions to teach students the special bond between nurses and the elderly. Fostering an open and caring learning environment, Dr. Petrilack sat down with Holy Family University to discuss how she came to HFU, her favorite moment as an educator, and her passion for caring for the elderly.

HFU: Can you tell us more about your background and how you made your way to Holy Family University?

JP: “I have been a nurse for many years in various areas in nursing. I enjoy working with nursing students using a holistic approach. I have certification as a Gerontological Nurse. Lifelong learning is an ongoing journey—last year I obtained my doctorate in nursing practice. My research was on family caregivers of persons with dementia using a deep breathing intervention effect on blood pressure and caregiver strain. Holy Family University is a well-known and prestigious educational institution. While attending a conference I met nursing faculty from Holy Family—they were caring, welcoming, and friendly.”

HFU: What is your classroom philosophy when teaching the newest group of nurses?

JP: “My role as an educator is to facilitate learning and provide a learning environment that is safe, respectful, supportive, and caring. This process builds trust and allows students to express diverse opinions and engage in open discourse—gaining knowledge and understanding. My goals are to empower students to broaden their viewpoints, develop critical thinking skills, and use evidence-based practice and research to guide their practice. I seek to develop future nursing leaders that are caring, collaborative, and socially responsible. Mentors have had a profound and positive influence in my life, I promote mentoring among students and act as a mentor to students.”

HFU: Do you have any specialty areas you get excited to teach?

JP: “My specialty is Gerontological Nursing. Working with the elderly is an area I am excited about. I have learned so much from the elderly I cared for as they shared their life experiences and stories. I am interested in research with the elderly population and family caregivers. I am also interested in student perceptions and response to family caregiver strain as they care for elderly persons with dementia in different settings.”

HFU: Do you have any memorable stories from your days as an educator?

JP: “Not a story, but memorable moments, including when the nursing students I have taught graduate. I was honored and proud to pin them at their graduation and see them reach their goal as graduate nurses.”

HFU: Do you have any hobbies you like to do for fun outside of Holy Family?

JP: “I enjoy gardening, watercolor painting, and collecting antiques. Also, I enjoy my retrievers and am currently seeking to have my English Cream golden become a therapy dog.”