While a career in healthcare can be extremely rewarding, most jobs within the field are often high on the list of most stressful professions. Add to that the weight of an ongoing pandemic and, at the moment, a health professions career seems to be a direct route to burnout.

That is, unless these professionals can learn how to extend a little preventative care to themselves.

That’s the goal of a new initiative, called CALM, which was launched this fall by faculty in the Schools of Pharmacy, Health Professions, and Nursing at Concordia. CALM stands for Centering and Living Mindfully.

As part of the program, students in any of Concordia’s health care disciplines, as well as student-athletes, were invited to take part in an eight-week program where, each week, they participate in 30 minutes of reflective discussion followed by one hour of mindful movement. The discussions focus on lessons shared with students through The Healthy Minds Program App. The topics include concepts like awareness, connection, insight, and purpose.

With support from a Concordia Intramural Research Grant, students who opted into the program received a free CUW-branded exercise mat, a reflection journal, and access to The Healthy Minds Program App. A total of 100 students have volunteered for the eight-week program, which began yesterday.

“Most of our accrediting bodies are increasingly valuing these skillsets and we’re seeing jobs built around this idea more and more at different professional organizations,” says Dr. Pollyanna Kabara, director of CUW’s physician assistant studies program and one of the CALM team members. “At Concordia, we do a wonderful job of giving students that proficiency piece academically. Now this is an effort to add in the ‘mind’ and ‘spirit’ piece of our mission statement.”

The eventual goal is to expand the program to all students at Concordia. Right now, the focus is on health profession majors in hopes that they will not only apply the skills to themselves but impart the best practices to their future clients.

“As with the rest of the nation’s college students, Concordians have not been immune to the isolating and emotionally taxing effects of the coronavirus,” says Nursing Associate Professor Dr. Cindy Witte, another member of the CALM team. “I’m just so excited that we’re able to offer such meaningful programming for our students. For them to not only care for themselves, but also be able to take that forward and provide it through their patient care. It’s just a domino effect.”

Other innovative wellbeing initiatives at Concordia

This isn’t the only time Concordia has taken a proactive and innovative approach to caring for its students’ emotional wellbeing.

In 2014, the university was the first in the nation to employ a full-time, certified Comfort Dog on campus as a resource for students. Concordia has since expanded its Comfort Dog Ministry to include a second LCC-certified dog, Sage, who is also designated as a resource for the School of Health Professions’ Animal Assisted Therapy Certificate program.

Last year, Concordia also launched a 24/7 stress relief resource for on-campus students. Thanks to a generous grant from The Charles E. Kubly Foundation, Concordia opened the doors to a brand-new Stress Management and Resiliency Training (SMART) laboratory. Named Evelyn’s Place, after beloved longtime Concordia employee Evelyn Hutchins, the SMART Lab is a designated space on campus that provides high-quality stress management services for undergraduates. The university is the first in Wisconsin and one of only a handful of colleges nationwide to have a lab of its kind.

CALM team members

Rachele Arnoldussen, PharmD Pharmacy Practice and Academic leadership PGY1 Resident

Beth Buckley, PharmD, CDCES, Professor of Pharmacy Practice

Pollyanna Kabara, EdD, PA-C, Program Director of Physician Assistant Studies and Assistant Professor

Leah Mott, RN, BSN, Concordia Nursing Instructor

Natalie Ross, DNP, FNP-BC, APNP, RN, Assistant Professor of Undergraduate Nursing

Jeremy Schumacher, MA, LMFT, Athletic Department Mental Wellness Coach

Katrina Serwe, PhD, MS, BS, OTR/L Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy

Cindy Witte, DNP, RN, FNP, CNE, Associate Professor of Undergraduate Nursing

— This story is written by Kali Thiel, director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at kali.thiel@cuw.edu or 262-243-2149.

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