The Latest

USU Program Addresses Burnout, Enhances Well-Being

A group of people with a dog in the middle
By Dr. Kameha Bell and Lt. (Dr.) Carrie Dillon, U.S. Navy

Today’s medical schools are actively working to identify effective strategies that support student well-being and counteract burnout. The creation of an effective well-being program at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) works in alignment with those particular strategies to address the health and wellness needs of all members of the university and to provide them with a wealth of resources and initiatives.

Burnout, as well as depression and anxiety, is a significant issue for student and healthcare professionals. So much so that the National Academy of Medicine recently launched the Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience to better understand and identify evidence-based strategies to improve clinician well-being. The Action Collaborative’s Conceptual Model Working Group also developed a comprehensive model to support the identification of strategies to reduce burnout in all settings and career stages.

Through time and experience, USU’s Well-being program has evolved. This conscious evolution has provided students with a monthly wellness newsletter, developed new campus interest groups and events, improved access to resources, created a peer mentorship program, increased volunteer opportunities, and established a full-time Facility Dog Program.

Two women practicing use of a tourniquet
Dr. Carol Romano, Dean of the Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing (left), learns to "Stop the Bleed" at the
hands-on station hosted by the USU National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health (NCDMPH)
[Image credit: Thomas Balfour]

A major cornerstone of the USU Well-being program is the Student Wellness Advisory Board (SWAB) that includes students and faculty from the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine, the Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing, and the office of Graduate Education in Biomedical Sciences and Public Health. The purpose of SWAB is to serve as a conduit and forum to link USU community members, existing programing, interest groups, and student initiatives to maximize efforts and/or new initiatives to enhance wellness in all areas of the university. The value of having a student-led board is that it creates a forum where all the schools are represented and their voices can be heard. Faculty and students collaborate closely to ensure that every initiative is designed to support student needs. It was from this forum that the concept for a university-wide health and wellness fair was born.

The first USU Health and Wellness Fair, held in March 2019, focused on providing health and wellness education and raising awareness of participants to available resources at USU, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and Naval Support Activity Bethesda. The event was attended by an estimated 300 people. SWAB’s commitment to serve the entire USU community, to coordinate efforts with the university’s senior level, and to provide as many creative and interactive activities as possible (e.g., cooking demos, guided walks, art therapy, foam rolling, labyrinth walking, etc.) were key to its success. Other activities included rating favorite wellness apps; utilizing a driving simulation model to assess levels of alertness and sleep deprivation; and interacting with the Walter Reed facility dogs, the Red Cross therapy dogs, and top dog HM2 Sully H. W. Bush (“the service dog”). The entire event was underscored with a theme of “Be the Best YOU at USU.”

A board titled "Whats your favorite wellness app?" with many responses on notecards below.
Fair attendees were invited to share their favorite health and wellness app by category. Approximately 85 cards
were posted listing 46 unique apps or resources. [Image credit: Kyle Skerbe]

Using last year’s successful model as a guide, the 2020 USU Health and Wellness fair—in collaboration with SWAB, the Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP), and the Public Health Service Prevention through Active Community Engagement (PACE)—will promote an emphasis on educational demos and interactive content and activities (e.g., wellness self-assessment; supplement label reading; teamwork/communication skills practice with blindfolded hula hooping; and make-and-take stress balls, thank you notes, or gratitude rocks; etc.). There will also be exhibitor booths with displays (e.g., topics such as nutrition, tobacco cessation, opioid epidemic, Naloxone training, resiliency, body mass index [BMI] calculation, blood pressure checks, etc.). In addition, various USU student groups will be present, along with Integrated Health and Wellness Services; staff from the Employee Assistance Program; and personnel from the USU counseling center, occupational health, and the Chaplain’s office.

The following multiservice participation centers will also be on site: the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) office, the MWR fitness center, the Military and Family Support Center, the United Services Organization (USO), and CHAMP. “Paws-a-tively Stress-Free” activities will be offered with USU’s facility dog, Shetland, and his friends from the Walter Reed American Red Cross Pet Visitation program, as well as friends from Walter Reed Facility Dogs.

The USU Health and Wellness Fair highlights in a single day efforts the USU Well-being program hopes to instill in students and the entire USU community throughout the year in support of personal wellness. Instilling life-long, healthy habits—such as adopting a growth mindset, balancing academics/work and outside activities, maintaining good sleep habits, making time to exercise, and maintaining good nutrition—are critical skills to not only do well, but also to thrive.

By incorporating the military culture unique to USU along with the USU Well-being program, we have been able to support the health and wellness of our students, enabling them to transfer what they have learned to their future lives as practicing medical providers. In doing so, USU students are creating and sustaining a focus on wellness for themselves, their classmates, and, most importantly, the military service members and families they will care for in the years to come. 

Want to learn more? Visit the USU Health and Wellness Fair on March 11, 2020 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.