Assistant Clinical Professor Sarah Campbell, MS, APRN, FNP-C, knows firsthand the pressure and stress her nursing students are facing, especially now.
On top of her teaching role, now mostly remote, she is a nurse practitioner at the UCI Student Health Center and is currently pursuing her doctor of nursing practice (DNP) from The Ohio State University. Not to mention a pandemic that has now stretched healthcare workers to their limits.
In an effort to help students build coping skills and resiliency, Campbell chose to implement an evidence-based intervention called MINDSTRONG© as her final DNP project.
Passionate about student well-being
“I’m passionate about our students’ mental well-being. It’s very important to me. This project couldn’t have come at a better time,” Campbell says.
The program is based on the concepts of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the first-line treatment for anxiety and depression.
“The foundation of CBT is the thinking, feeling and behavior triad. How you think affects how you feel and behave; restructuring negative though patterns can make a positive impact on how you feel and behave. Participants learn skills, practice self-monitoring and set a goal for themselves each week.”
She does not use the “H” word in her groups — homework.
Weekly theme address self-talk, emotions
Every week has a theme: positive self-talk , problem solving, regulating emotions, coping with stressful situations, getting good sleep and putting it all together for better mental wellness, to name a few.
For seven weeks, she met with 20 third- and fourth- year undergraduate and Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN) students over Zoom. I say, ‘Come with no makeup, jammies, whatever. Come as you are, this is not class.’ I have them call me Sarah. It’s casual, it’s safe, it’s truly confidential.”
A participant in Campbell’s Friday morning group emailed her the Monday after their first session.
“They wrote to say it had already made such a positive difference,” she says. “In just three days. That’s the impact.”
Experiencing positive changes
BSN student Hannah Vasquez found out about MINDSTRONG© when Campbell spoke to her obstetrical nursing class about the program.
After Campbell’s introduction, she asked the class if they were feeling stressed.
“We were all thinking yeah,” Vasquez remembers. She enrolled along with several of her nursing classmates. “I was excited to do this program with my friends. I know I can relate to them.”
Vasquez felt the changes acutely. As she gained more insight and visibility into the chain of thoughts, feelings and actions, she reached a new level of self-awareness.
Learning more self-awareness
That’s not only a good life skill, she says, but it’s important in the patient care setting.
“You’re going to get very difficult patients. You need to be aware of the thoughts you’re having during stressful times so they don’t negatively affect patient care.”
Vasquez also learned to give herself grace when she’s having a difficult time.
“I think just knowing I’m not alone and that people are also not okay sometimes helps me to just go through those emotions,” she says.
“If I need to cry, I’m going to cry. If I need to step away from my computer, I won’t force myself to finish something.”
Classes a weekly highlight
Campbell’s students may have gotten a lot out of the tools she and MINDSTRONG© gave them, but Campbell got a lot out of her groups, too. The twice-weekly meetings were the highlight of her week.
Although this project was conducted with a small group of participants, the findings suggest that MINDSTRONG© is a feasible and efficacious tool for helping students cope with stress, anxiety and depression.
Founding Dean Adey Nyamathi believes in the program’s ability to help build students’ resilience, which has been severely tested during the pandemic.
“I am so proud of Sarah and the work that she is doing. Integrating mind-body strategies into our programs is so critical for our students,” she says.
“This program is a resource that shows promise in decreasing stress, anxiety and depression, all of which negatively impacts our students’ ability to focus on coursework and renew their commitment and passion as future nurses.”
MINDSTRONG© is a program that was developed by Dr. Bernadette Melnyk PhD, APRN-CNP, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN, the Dean of the College of Nursing and University Chief Wellness Officer at The Ohio State University.
It has been backed by multiple randomized controlled trials and was adapted from an intervention called COPE (Creating Opportunities for Personal Empowerment). Read the abstract.