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Updated: January 25, 2022

UMaine School of Nursing receives $1.5M award to reduce job-related burnout

people in health care uniforms around bed COURTESY / UNIVERSITY OF MAINE During the pandemic, faculty and students have been deployed to address health care needs in Maine. The new program will teach resilience-building skills.

A new initiative is aiming to increase resilience and reduce burnout among University of Maine School of Nursing students, faculty and staff.

The research and interprofessional program, called WellNurse, received a $1.5 million award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, according to a news release.

WellNurse will be a collaboration with the UMaine School of Food and Agriculture, Clinical Psychology Program and New Balance Student Recreation Center. The program will serve UMaine’s School of Nursing, which welcomed its largest first-year class of 115 students last fall.

The program is seen as a future model for health professional programs throughout the University of Maine System and beyond.

The three-year award, one of 34 nationwide, was enabled by $103 million in American Rescue Plan funding to help health and public safety professionals, particularly those in rural and medically underserved communities, reduce burnout and promote mental health. The funding also supports training efforts that build resilience for health care professionals at the beginning of their careers.

WellNurse will create a systematic approach to achieving those goals among students in nursing, Kelley Strout, interim associate dean of health science, School of Nursing director and the principal investigator on the award, said in the release. 

A resilient nursing workforce can withstand burnout and the demands associated with workforce shortages, Kelley noted in the award proposal. During the pandemic, UMaine nursing faculty and students have been deployed to address health care needs across the state. 

“We’ve seen unprecedented levels of stress, anxiety and burnout across the nursing profession related to working and learning in a high-stakes environment, while we continue to manage the additional demands generated from the pandemic,” said Strout.

She is collaborating on the project with Rebecca Schwartz-Mette, associate professor of psychology, Jade McNamara, assistant professor of human nutrition, and Joshua Bridges, assistant director of fitness and wellness at the campus Fitness Center.

Schwartz-Mette and McNamara are co-investigators on the award. Liam O’Brien, professor of statistics at Colby College, leads the WellNurse evaluation team.

To teach resilience-building skills, WellNurse will use approaches including mindfulness-based stress reduction, physical fitness, nutrition training and peer mentoring. The will be the basis for a UMaine wellness, resilience and stress management curriculum in the School of Nursing.

The school includes 413 undergraduate and 43 graduate students and over 50 faculty and staff. It has partnerships with more than 200 clinical agencies statewide, including Northern Light Health, the school’s primary training site.

This was the second Health Resources and Services Administration award to the School of Nursing in the past seven months. UMaine recently received a four-year, $1.7 million grant to increase the diversity of Maine’s workforce in nursing, in partnership with Northern Light Health and Morgan State University.

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