March 6, 2019

Initiative helps nurses care for their most important patients: themselves

Faculty of Nursing brings well-being to forefront by adopting Campus Mental Health Strategy

Drowning in success and starting to sink. That’s how Dr. Jacqueline Smith, PhD, felt at the end of her first year as an assistant professor in the Faculty of Nursing.

Despite meeting deliverables and managing high performance expectations, the lack of balance started taking a toll on her well-being and she knew things needed to change.

Prioritizing mental health has been an ongoing commitment for the Faculty of Nursing, and with support from newly appointed dean Sandra Davidson, in the course of a few short months they have made incredible progress, beginning with the official adoption of the Campus Mental Health Strategy (CMHS).

Faculty of Nursing launches three-year mental health initiative

Formally announced at the CMHS progress event on March 5, the Faculty of Nursing became one of the first to embed the university’s institutional mental health strategy in their faculty by developing a three-year initiative.

“My role as a leader is to create a culture and set the bar for how we work together in a way that honours not just our academic and professional excellence, but also our personal wellness,” says Davidson.

“Everyone wants to be in a place where they have emotional and intellectual well-being, and feel supported. If we can create a name for ourselves by living the strategy and creating wellness for work and study, we’ll produce better nurses and will be better positioned to attract talented researchers and top students.”

Throughout the first year, an implementation committee will identify opportunities through a needs assessment to understand what makes students, faculty and staff thrive. During year two, they’ll focus on putting research into practice by introducing new policies, procedures and curriculum changes.

At the close of the third year, the faculty intends to evaluate their progress and publish the findings, establishing a model for other faculties at the University of Calgary and across Canada to follow.

“This is exactly what we envisioned when the strategy launched back in 2015,” says Dr. Andrew Szeto, PhD, director of the Campus Mental Health Strategy.

“Our mission is to create a community of caring, so developing positive cultures at the faculty level is an incredibly important step in prioritizing mental health and well-being. The Faculty of Nursing is a natural fit to champion this initiative and I’m thrilled to be collaborating with Dr. Davidson and Dr. Smith.”       

Director of mental health and wellness appointed to lead vision

Wondering where Smith fits into this picture? She’ll be driving the culture shift in her new role as the faculty’s first director of mental health and wellness. In addition to maintaining her teaching and research position, she’ll be heavily invested in developing infrastructure and programming to make wellness accessible and visible.

“As nurses, we’re great at taking care of others, but tend to struggle with our own self care. Part of this culture shift means establishing a foundation of personal wellness while also modelling the way for other faculties to bring well-being to the forefront of their work and study,” says Smith.

“I’m still here at the university because Sandra created a safe space, invested time to understand what I was experiencing and found a path forward. Embedding the strategy in our faculty is about creating that same feeling for everyone.”

Pictured above are Andrew Szeto, director of the Campus Mental Health Strategy, left; Jacqueline Smith, newly appointed director of mental health and wellness for the Faculty of Nursing; and Dean Sandra Davidson launch a three-year initiative prioritizing mental health in the Faculty of Nursing.