Page 66 - Healthcare News SepOct 2021
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a funny video or throwing themselves into an activity can also help, he added. “Once they are ready for the next step, they can use some of the other skills to influence the emotions that are underneath the urge and begin to think differently about it.”
Support Systems
The pandemic looked like it was going to subside this past spring as warm weather arrived and many people were getting vaccinated, but then the Delta variant reared its head, and vaccine levels plateaued. While that created frus- tration for everyone, it was particularly hard on people with pre-existing conditions related to anxiety and depression.
Navarro said the confusion of starting to feel safe, and then, suddenly, not so safe, can lead to hopelessness, a huge risk factor in suicidal tendencies. A person who feels hopeless will often make vague statements such as “I can’t do this anymore,” “I don’t want to be here,” and “this is too hard,” she noted.
“I talk with people about what they can and cannot control. Though we can’t control events outside, we can control ourselves and our responses to those events.”
During the pandemic, social media can either help people feel more connected or lead to more hopeless-
ness. Hichborn noted that, while it’s good to see friends and loved ones from across the country, social media also creates misleading impressions. The people smiling in the photo look happy, but they might be feeling lots of stress in
their lives.
“The effect of social media is counterintuitive because it
makes us feel more connected upfront, but in the long run makes us feel a lot more depressed and isolated,” she said.
Two other groups emotionally affected by the pandemic are very young children and seniors. Hichborn said she sees clients from ages 3 to 77. When a parent with young children dies, it can create a suicide risk.
them directly, ‘are you feeling suicidal? Are you having thoughts of harming yourself?’” she said.
If they’re not having those thoughts, Hichborn added, the question will not encourage people to start thinking about it. “It doesn’t work that way.”
In addition to asking direct questions, Burgess suggested active listening and being supportive.
“Sometimes the most important thing to do is listen and acknowledge the person’s experience,” she said. “They don’t need you to fix it, they just want to be heard.”
Hichborn recommends a safety plan displayed on the re- frigerator to help a person who might struggle with suicidal thoughts.
“The plan can have support people to call and emer- gency numbers like the police, suicide hotline, or poison control,” she explained. “Everything is written out in a place that’s easily seen, so when someone isn’t thinking straight and their thoughts are all over the place, they don’t have to think about what to do — it’s right there.”
Stay Connected
Though we might feel alone in our thoughts, Burgess encouraged people to reach out to those they are comfort- able with to talk about their feelings.
“What’s profound about the pandemic is that it’s a col- lective experience everyone is going through,” she said — and one that no one should have to confront alone. v
  Sometimes the most important thing to do is
listen and acknowledge the person’s experience. They don’t need you to fix it, they just want to be heard.”
“The child has a concept of mom or dad dying, and they want to see them again,” Hichborn said. “The child might feel like they have to die in order to see their mom or dad.”
Older people who are at risk of suicide tend to show warning signs such as saying goodbye to people, giving away their prized possessions, and cleaning out their house. When family members see this type of behavior, it’s impor- tant to talk with the person.
“If you see any suicidal ideations or any warning signs within a family member, don’t beat around the bush — ask
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prepared statement.
Vorderstrasse echoed those sentiments
and noted that this latest gift — again, the largest ever given to UMass Amherst — creates more momentum, enthusiasm, and exposure for the school at a pivotal time in its history.
“It’s such an exciting time for the whole university to see this come in,” she said, “because it says that the foundation and others who have been good friends of the university for a long time really do feel that this is a pivotal time to support UMass.”
Meanwhile, the $21.5 million gift is only the latest of many from Marieb and the foundation she created to area schools. Previously, she had made gifts of more than $2 million for campus-wide scholarships at UMass Amherst. She and the foundation have also made several gifts to Holyoke Community College and its Center for Life Sciences, which now bears her name.
Marieb, a Northampton native, died in 2018 at age 82, and ranks among the na- tion’s most influential nursing educators. As noted, she earned a master’s degree from UMass Amherst’s College of Nursing in 1985 with a specialization in gerontology.
Prior to that, she received a Ph.D. in zool- ogy from the College of Natural Sciences at UMass in 1969. She also held degrees from Holyoke Community College, Fitchburg State College, Mount Holyoke College, and Westfield State College. Her distinguished career included time teaching at Springfield College and Holyoke Community College.
Ultimately, Marieb became the author or co-author of more than 10 bestselling text- books and laboratory manuals on anatomy and physiology after she started writing textbooks to address complaints from her nursing students that the materials then available were ineffective. Her work has been read by more than 3 million nurses and healthcare professionals practicing today.
Marieb’s impact on nursing education will only become more profound with the foundation’s latest gift, said Vorderstrasse, adding that it comes after six to nine months of collaborative discussions with foundation leaders about nursing educa- tion, the UMass program, and its mission moving forward.
In many ways, the nursing engineering program, launched last January, became
a catalyst for the gift. Seed-funded by other donors and friends of the School
of Nursing, the initiative was conceptual- ized to support graduate students in their research training and experience at UMass
across various disciplines, Vorderstrasse explained.
“It functions at that nexus of healthcare, engineering, and healthcare professionals, especially nurses, and the development and application of new technologies or even existing technologies — how we apply those in an ethical manner and develop them in such a way that takes into consideration patients and the people who will use them, as well as nurses who are on the front lines using these technologies.
“We hope that it will evolve into a center that collaborates not only on our campus, but with industry partners, because Mas- sachusetts is a hub for healthcare technol- ogy,” she went on, adding that the grant from the Marieb Foundation will fund research at the center, especially new initia- tives and pilot programs that need seed funding to get off the ground.
Meanwhile, the gift will be used to help expand the nursing programs and put more nurses into the pipeline, she said. Plans call for student scholarships to be expanded to improve access for underrepresented stu- dents, and to link scholarships to academic and professional success.
Elaborating, Vorderstrasse said the tradi- tional bachelor’s-degree program graduates roughly 65 students each year and sees more than 2,000 applicants for those seats.
Expansion of that program will be incre-
mental, perhaps eight to 10 students at a time, she told HCN, adding that a program like this cannot, and should not, double in size overnight. But over a period of years, growth can be achieved that will make a significant impact in the number of nurses entering the field.
Growth is also projected for what’s known as the second-degree nursing program, for individuals who have a degree in another field and want to venture into nursing, said Vorderstrasse, adding that this program currently graduates roughly 90 students each year.
Bottom Line
Getting back to the word transforma- tive, it is saved for those occasions when someone or something can bring about profound, meaningful change.
The someone in this case, Marieb, has already done so much to change the land- scape when it comes to nursing education. The something is a gift, the latest of many, that will accelerate the pace of growth and progress for the Nursing program and en- able more people to earn degrees there.
As Vorderstrasse said, that adjective ‘transformative’ certainly fits in this case. v

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