Leaders Discuss Rising Stress at Wellness Retreat

A 2017 study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Services has raised alarming concerns about increasing levels of psychological distress among Americans.

To combat this trend, leaders at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska Omaha are working together to reduce student stress and increase student resiliency.

Dr. Daniel Shipp

On May 2, leaders from the UNMC and UNO gathered on the UNMC campus at historic Poynter Hall to discuss student, faculty, and staff wellness.

“UNO and UNMC are collaborating in unprecedented ways and what better time to focus on shared resources and interests regarding student, employee, and faculty wellbeing,” said Cathy Pettid, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs at UNO. “Specifically, we have the opportunity to make UNO and UNMC the healthiest campuses in the nation with efforts focused on sleep, mental health, stress reduction and resiliency.”

During the retreat, the leaders looked at current strengths and opportunities as well as weaknesses and threats.

Some of the weaknesses discussed included getting information to a large number of faculty, students hesitant about asking for help, and a lack of student classes for graduate students. Threats include budget concerns and multiple campuses needing to find time to communicate and to work together.

The good news is that current leadership at both institutions support wellness education and programs and there are wellness electives for students and SMART stress management training for faculty and staff.

“It was an important step to bring key leaders together from both campuses (UNMC and UNO) to begin reviewing what wellness-based educational programs and support services are currently available to students, faculty, and staff. We were also able to dream a little and start thinking about what we need to put in place to ensure that all members of our communities learn to live well and thrive,” said Dr. Shipp, vice chancellor for student success and UNO/UNMC.

At the end of the retreat, attendees decided to create a wellness committee, which will meet quarterly. The next meeting will be in July. Joe Kominski, senior director of wellness and UNO, said he would like to work on the mission of the committee at the summer meeting.

“I believe we have a good working mission statement of ‘At UNO and UNMC, we will learn how to live well and thrive,’” Kominski said. “That statement ties into the Chancellor’s remarks this morning at UNO’s Strategic planning session about preparing individuals to be the best they can be and be lifelong learners.”

Dr. Wengel said training in healthcare could be very stressful, and the anxiety is getting worse.

“We need to be there for our students and prepare them for when they will be practicing medicine,” said Wengel, assistant vice chancellor for wellness at UNMC/UNO.

Wengel said when the group meets in July, he wants the committee to look at two or three specific projects to continue to provide stress management to everyone involved at UNMC and UNO.

Also attending the meeting were Rowen Zetterman, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs; Jonathon Sikorski, director of wellness education at UNMC; Charlene Patterson, director, counseling and psychological services at UNO; Jeanne Surface, associate professor, educational leadership at UNO; and Phil Covington, interim assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs/interim director of student services at UNMC, director of student conduct & community standards at UNO.


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