The Importance of Medical School Wellness Programs

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Examining a medical school's wellness programs can give you an indication of how a school prioritizes the health and wellbeing of its students. 

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A man and a woman exercising in a park

Many students struggle with their mental health at some point during their academic journey, but there is evidence to suggest that aspiring physicians are particularly susceptible to mental health challenges. Long study hours and volunteering or working in stressful environments can lead to burnout, anxiety, or depression. Furthermore, once students matriculate to medical school, maintaining wellness can be even more challenging as they adapt to the rigors of medical school.

Thankfully, in recent years both the number and comprehensiveness of wellness initiatives at medical schools have grown. Most medical schools now offer some wellness-related resources. But how can you tell which schools are really committed to supporting the well-being of their students? The answer lies in thoroughly researching a school’s wellness programming. You can often obtain this information from medical school websites, online forums, or by reaching out to current students. Below are a few examples of wellness initiatives that have recently been praised by students in an online forum: 

Free counseling sessions at Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at University of Utah
Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at University of Utah has a dedicated mental health clinic for students where they can get free and confidential weekly therapy without requiring insurance. The University of Utah Counseling Center offers a generous 12 session to those who utilize its services. (According to the university, many similar programs have a limit of just four sessions per student.) The university has also increased the number of counselors available and offers many mindfulness and wellness workshops.

Building resilience among students at Wright State University
Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine offers a resilience program called POW=R, a prevention-focused program that is designed to increase general student wellness and mitigate or prevent anxiety, depression, and burnout. The approach is grounded in positive psychology, existentialism, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and mindfulness. This year, the university also established the Mental Health Task Force, providing additional training and resources as well as increased counseling services available to students.

Formal coaching program at Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine  
At Kaiser, students have access to a program called REACH (which stands for Reflection, Education, Assessment, Coaching, and Health and well-being). In addition to week-long, quarterly learning sessions, the program pairs each student with a physician-coach who works with them until graduation. The coaches are drawn from a diverse pool of physicians who have received certified training through the International Coaching Federation. They also receive ongoing coaching supervision.

Keep in mind, these are just three examples of how schools are supporting student wellness. For additional tips on evaluating medical school wellness programs, also check out “8 Medical Student Wellness Questions to Ask During Your Interview.”  

For additional information on maintaining wellness and preventing burnout, we also recommend the following resources:

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