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UMaine works to reduce burnout among nursing students

A $1.5 million grant, the school will provide a new program for nursing students, faculty, and staff aimed at helping those within the program better manage stress.

ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine is joining the effort to reduce burnout caused by the pandemic. A $1.5 million grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration will be used to launch a program known as "WellNurse." 

The goal is to teach resilience-building skills through a three-part program. The first part focuses on mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). The other two parts involve a fitness program and nutrition mindfulness training. 

These programs were designed with the intent to help nursing students learn how to better manage the stresses of this field before entering the workforce. 

Kelley Strout, School of Nursing director at UMaine, is leading the research for this new initiative. 

"There's a level of significant rigor in our curriculums and we know that we can't just reduce their rigor, especially given what we're seeing in today's healthcare system. Our goal is to produce a more resilient product which is less susceptible to burnout, which is what we're seeing in the nursing profession," Strout said.

Katelin McDonough and Nicholas Powers, both senior nursing students at UMaine, said they've seen the burnout in hospitals caused by the pandemic firsthand. 

"It's so easy to get in your head things like oh maybe I didn't pick the right career," McDonough said.

"Each shift that I went back it seemed like I was working with a whole new unit, new co-workers," Powers said.

McDonough said despite seeing this strain on the industry she's pursued since her freshman year, she tries to surround herself with nurses that have a more positive outlook. 

Strout said since the beginning, her nursing students have not missed a beat.

"They went to schools, jails, homeless shelters, senior housing sites, people's homes. They went everywhere," Strout said.

A pilot version of this program will begin later this semester so that researchers can then study what worked and what didn't to adjust practices moving forward. 

"They always say to address burnout like you have to take care of yourself first and you have to meet your needs before you can meet your patient's needs," Powers said.

This program is in collaboration with the UMaine School of Food and Agriculture, Clinical Psychology Program, and New Balance Student Recreation Center. 

Strout said the hope is to eventually turn this program into a for-credit course that's built into the nursing school curriculum. 

"I am really proud of our students for all the ways in which they supported our community throughout this pandemic," Strout said. 


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