After more than a year of providing wellness services to nurses at UAB Medicine, the focus of a $2.3 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration is now turning toward University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing students, faculty and staff.
Rachel Z. Booth Endowed Professor Patricia A. Patrician, PhD, RN, FAAN, received the grant in 2022 for the program named Workforce Engagement for Compassionate Advocacy, Resilience, and Empowerment, or WE CARE. Its goal is to reduce burnout and promote mental health and well-being within the nursing profession.
“The COVID-19 pandemic put an additional strain on nurses,” Patrician said. “This grant and the resources it has allowed us to provide are making a real impact on helping nurses deal with some difficult circumstances, like making sure they have additional support dealing with the aftermath of patient deaths, episodes of violence and general work stressors they deal with on a daily basis. Over the past year that we’ve been working with the hospital nursing staff, we have seen improvements in several indicators of well-being.”
The WE CARE grant has enabled the program to hire nursing professional development specialists to receive additional training in resilience and psychological first aid, and a nurse wellness manager to provide individualized support services exclusively to nurses at UAB Medicine.
As the grant turns its efforts to the School, the team now includes a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, Laura Woodward, MSN, CRNP, PMHNP-BC (MSN 2020), and a social worker, Sarah Swatzell, LMSW, to collaborate with UABSON students, faculty and staff to provide support and help them learn to manage stress and respond compassionately to others in distress. In addition to hosting workshops and conducting surveys about the current state of well-being at the School, the social worker will be available to assist with other needs as well.
“No issue is too large or small for me to address, whether it is through providing a safe space for a conversation or referring someone to specialized services,” said Swatzell, a licensed social worker who is taking on this new role for the School.
Swatzell is available to provide support for food insecurity, housing and utility/bill assistance, health and mental health concerns, crisis intervention, interpersonal relations and communication, and student/staff advocacy.
“College can be a very stressful time for students, and those who are struggling to meet their basic needs may have a much harder time being successful in their education,” Swatzell said. “I want to help students access resources and advocate for themselves.”
Swatzell also will give presentations in classes and to faculty and staff groups to raise awareness of the support and services available. She is eager to begin building a caseload and actively working to assist the School.
“It’s really a journey of support and collaboration,” Swatzell said.
After partnering with UAB Medicine in the grant’s first year and supporting UABSON the second year, the goal of the third year is to expand support, training and resources to nurses throughout Alabama.
“Providing these resources to all nurses in the state, many of whom live and work in low resources, rural counties, can make a big impact in helping nurses function at their very best and, as a result, improve the quality of patient care they deliver,” Patrician said. “After all, nurses are the backbone of the health care system.”