Evelyn Candido works grueling 12-hour shifts as a nurse at Medical City Fort Worth. The COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified her job.
Candido, who graduated from Texas Christian University last year, said she was not equipped to deal with the toll being a nurse would take on her mental health.
The Bebout Wellness Center for the Helping Professions at TCU’s Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences is aiming to better prepare students so they know how to cope with their job — whether it be as a student or when they enter the workforce.
The Bebout Student Wellness Center was launched with the goal of helping healthcare workers and nursing students learn the skill of being well.
“On the car ride home from work, it’s silence. I don’t even listen to music. My brain is already so loud,” Candido said, adding she hopes the wellness center emphasizes teaching future nurses how to ask for help. “I think preparing students for what is to come and how to cope with everything is important.”
The center was funded by the Bebout Family Foundation. Sharon Bebout and the Bebout family have been actively involved with TCU nursing since 2010, following the death of Amanda Bebout, a former TCU nursing student.
The Bebout Family Foundation had the goal of impacting mental health in the community, one of the primary faculty leaders for the program, assistant nursing professor Danielle Walker said. Originally, the foundation was trying to prepare more mental health nurses through an externship program with My Health My Resources Tarrant County.
Walker eventually caught wind of the wellness program at TCU and decided to collaborate with the team at the Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences, she said. The Bebout Family Foundation granted the program funding in early 2020.
Now, the team of faculty and students who are developing the program are striving to teach nurses how to practice wellness.
‘For the students, by the students’
Students in a nursing class worked on a research project in the summer of 2018 to identify information on wellness programs and how they benefited students, Walker said.
“Nurses, themselves, aren’t as healthy as we would like them to be,” associate professor in nursing and faculty leader Pamela Frable said. “Our nursing students found out in their research that nursing students were often less healthy than the non-health profession students.”
TCU nursing students found that the mental health of nurses affects patient outcomes. One goal of the center was to equip students with the skill of being well, Frable said.
The original group of students found that they experienced stress, distress and anxiety around their courses, Frable said.
“We’ve had evidence of students saying things like, ‘I’ve been at war to get through school,’” she said. “We really wanted to change that.”
The students, along with the help of faculty, have been able to move forward with initiatives like the journaling initiative, the Brain Break Box, art and self-care initiatives and orientations for sophomores that help them cope with what is ahead in their education.
The center is a coming together of opportunities, Frable said. Along with a physical space, the center consists of resources to help students find their pathways to wellness while being students through their courses.
According to a survey by Mental Health America, 93% of healthcare workers experienced stress, 86% experienced anxiety, 76% felt they were burnt out and 75% of respondents felt overwhelmed from last June to September.
“Supporting the mental health of especially healthcare workers has become all the more important as a result of the pandemic,” said Suzy Lockwood, associate dean of nursing and nurse anesthesia at TCU.
Part of the initial idea of the program was to bring accessibility to health resources to nursing students. Nursing students often do not have the time and capability to go to the health resources on campus because of their schedules, Frable said.
“We connect a lot of our other resources on campus,” said Frable. “When we can, we are bringing resources into the space proximate to the students.”
The program started with students and has been developed by students since its inception. The team behind the wellness program was eager to say that the project will continue to be “for the students, by the students.”
Although the program was not fully implemented during her time at TCU, Candido said she has learned to cope with the stress of being a nurse by giving herself breaks throughout the week. She said she has worked out a schedule that keeps her at peace.
She emphasized that patients need nurses’ full attention. A nurse’s well-being has an effect on patient outcomes, she said.
“You have to leave all stressors at the door,” she said. “These people (patients) don’t need that.”
Most recently, nursing students came up with a mentoring program where sophomore students mentor first-year students. The sophomore-to-freshman mentoring program will run a pilot of the program this fall.
“I like the idea of mentoring somebody,” Candido said. “But, it is a lot with the workload that we have as nursing students.”
Candido suggested that the program should have some form of a schedule that helps mentors and mentees plan meetings.
“Maybe there are other ways other than meeting up,” she said. “Maybe make it a group thing.”
As a part of acknowledging Mental Health Awareness Month, the Bebout Wellness Center plans to finalize a fellowship that will allow nursing students to research practice-based learning projects related to wellness.
Every semester, one or two groups of capstone course students work on moving the program forward, Walker said. A new component has been added to the program every semester since its origin in 2018, she added.
Recently, the team at the program is waiting on the development and construction of the Amanda Bebout Resilience Room, a space designated to provide nursing students a place to meditate quietly, Walker said.
“Our mission in public health nursing is to create communities in which people can thrive. That is what I see this program is designed to do,” Frable said. “We are trying to create a healthy workforce.”