Dr. Melani Bell
Vice President, Maryland Nurses Association
Nominated by Dr. Elizabeth Fildes
As a child, Melani Bell thought she wanted to be a physician. She would visit hospitals, like Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C., and when she went home, “I’d dissect worms, pretending to be a physician.” But at the age of 16, something just “went off in my head,” and she declared: “I want to be a nurse! I want to spend more time with the patients, because I did not see where physicians were able to spend that quality time patients needed on their journey to healing.”
That quality time with patients is critical for their recovery, she says. “Patient care means being holistic. It does not mean just passing a pill, changing a bed. It means taking on that person as a whole and caring for them as care for yourself or your loved ones.” The holistic approach means the little things matter. “Sometimes it is just a conversation, words of comfort. Or a hug. When you are a nurse, you become the patient's everything - which was clear during the COVID pandemic; families could not be there with the patient, but they always had their nurse at their side.”
Authenticity is a Nurse Superpower
“When you are authentic, you attract positivity. And when you attract positivity, you can give positive vibes to your patients when they are going through their challenges. Providing that sense of comfort and authenticity, I think, helps them along the way.”
Fighting for Health Equity
Bell is passionate about bringing true health equity to her community and to the world. “Everyone should receive the same treatment no matter what their socioeconomic status,” she says.
From Mentee to Mentor
Calling Chamberlain the “university that raised me,” Bell credits influential mentors along her professional journey that have taught her resilience, confidence, and courage. One mentor she respects tremendously is Chamberlain professor Dr. Elizabeth Fildes. “She has been very inspirational, from the time I entered her classroom as a healthcare policy student and throughout the rest of my education,” Bell says. It was Dr. Fildes, Bell says, that encouraged her to pursue her doctoral degree. “Dr. Fildes has been with me every step of the way, encouraging me to reach for the sky, which is something that I'm able to pass on to my mentees, as well.”
“I was able to use my voice for the voiceless, and it impacted the lives of many.”
As a mentor herself, Bell emphasizes emotional intelligence is essential. “To be an influential mentor, you must have a caring heart. You must have a giving heart. Every person does not walk at the same pace when they are learning, and so you must take the time to be with that individual, to pour into them the knowledge and the compassion that you have for the profession, so that they too can be successful.”
Bell keeps the future front and center. “I am raising the next generation of award winners, and they are Chamberlain students. I am so proud to have this to show them that you put your hard work in every day, and you do it because you love the profession, and you love to take care of people. But the recognition sometimes follows, and this is an example. The Chamberlain family takes you in, and they continue to raise you, beyond your education.”
Bell is not just a mentor; she is on the university’s Community Advisory Board and on the board for Chamberlain’s Empower Scholarship Fund. “The fact that I get to come back and do for others what they have done for me. That is what makes made me proud. I am still able to plant my feet in Chamberlain, feel welcome and give back.”
Why Nursing? N-U-R-S-E
“I went into nursing because I really wanted to spend quality time with patients. I wanted to spend time with those who could not be with their families and provide that substitute, if you will, for the care and compassion that they would receive from their loved ones.”
Bell says anyone with interest in becoming a nurse or working on advanced degrees should go for it! “I would tell them to go to Chamberlain. The professors take the time to nurture you, and nurturing is very important.”
Bell has an acronym for the word nurse that she wants to share with others:
Bell is excited about the future of nursing. “When you are a nurse, you can do anything. There is nothing you cannot do,” she says. “I do not think most people know the benefits of becoming a registered nurse. We are not just at the bedside; we have seat at the table when it comes to being a change agent.” And Bell is the personification of change agent. With her doctoral degree and passion for health policy, she became the Vice President of the Maryland Nurses Association. In that role, she also served as chair of the legislative committee, where she worked with lobbyists and the Maryland General Assembly on healthcare bills as well bills that impact nursing practice.
Changing Healthcare Policy at the Highest Levels of State Government
One of Bell’s proudest achievements to date is testifying before the Maryland General Assembly on a bill to prevent pelvic and rectal exams on unconscious patients. “You must treat patients with dignity and respect, and you must obtain consent from patients. You cannot take advantage of situations where patients are unconscious or asleep.”
It is now law in Maryland that pelvic and rectal exams will not be done on unconscious patients without consent. “I was able to use my voice for the voiceless, and it impacted the lives of many.”
Keeping the Focus on Patient Outcomes
“My dream is to see the world of healthcare in a better place, to focus on the patient, as opposed to the payment,” Bell says emphatically. “Focusing on the patient will bring better patient outcomes; they shouldn’t be worried about paying their bill or foregoing a trip to the hospital if they can’t afford it.”
A key element of patient outcomes is teaching patients preventative care and involving them in improving their own healthcare, Bell says. Nurses treating one patient can impact an entire family and community by sharing knowledge with patients who then go home and teach what they have learned.
A Legacy of Selfless Service
When thinking about the kind of legacy she wants to leave with her patients, students, and family, Bell continues to make the focus on others, rather than herself. “I would like my healthcare legacy to be selfless service, giving from the heart,” she says. “That doesn't mean that you aren't going to take care of your own self; it means that you're able to take care of yourself and provide for others.”
By Eileen Daily
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