It’s been six months since COVID-19 began to significantly impact our nation, causing people, businesses and organizations to rethink everyday operations in the interest of public safety. While the Pandemic is forcing many schools to implement online learning for the first time, Frontier Nursing University (FNU) has been operating through a distance education model for more than 30 years. However, while at-home workspaces and virtual classrooms are business as usual for FNU faculty and students, a pandemic paired with ongoing social movements were not.
As they worked to transition vital in-person programming to a digital platform, FNU leadership quickly realized that success over the next few months would take more than reworking education modules. For students, faculty, and staff to meet the same expectations of past terms, FNU needed to expand their Culture of Caring by embracing their community through compassion, respect, and understanding.
As a University with an excellent psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner program, FNU is aware of how important it is to stay connected and have a healthy support system as our country works through this crisis. To help with this process, FNU has launched a series of new virtual engagement opportunities for faculty, staff and students to further strengthen the mental health of the Frontier community.
Below are some new practices that have been incredibly helpful in navigating the past several months in helping this community to stay encouraged, focused and energized:
Building a Home Base
As the threat of the Pandemic spread, FNU leadership quickly created a COVID-19 updates page on their website as a resource for the Frontier community. On the COVID-19 page are links to the most current information on state and national statistics, stories about our alumni out on the frontlines, and videos and information concerning self-care and mental health.
In an introductory video on our COVID-19 page, FNU President Dr. Susan Stone reaches out to students, faculty, and staff, with an encouraging message, setting an example of unity that reflects the FNU mission:
“Even as we have responded to social distancing, we have not lost our sense of community, team-work, and caring for one another. In these difficult times, it is comforting and inspiring to see how we have all banded together and supported one another facing every question and challenge with ingenuity and creativity…Thank you for your support and the important roles that each of you plays in the FNU community…Stay strong during this difficult time, and please reach out to us if there is anything that we can do to support you.”
Focusing on Self-Care
FNU has offered support to its community during these isolating times through various methods, including virtual lunches, mindfulness sessions and video chat support meetings. Support meetings were especially impactful, giving students, faculty and staff a safe space to openly discuss the effects of current events on their daily lives. On their COVID-19 page, FNU features a video on self-care strategies, in which Dr. Jess Calohan, chair of the psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner program, relates that “in a time of crisis and fear of the unknown, the mental health needs of individuals and groups require special attention.” FNU has been embracing this narrative for its community throughout the pandemic.
Additionally, Dr. Calohan’s video emphasizes the importance of maintaining a daily schedule, making time for yourself and finding ways to stay in touch with family, friends and co-workers. FNU acknowledges that everyone has developed additional stressors during the past several months. However, by focusing on sharing experiences and staying connected, they have maintained a foundation of community throughout this year.
Establishing a Support System
Dr. Joanne Keefe, and Bridgett Lyall, our spring term Circle of Caring winners, are excellent examples of FNU community members who have exemplified what it means to support and strengthen morale during the past few months. Both of these women have gone above and beyond to show consideration and compassion for their teams, and they have both positively impacted the culture of FNU.
Dr. Keefe, FNU’s course coordinator for epidemiology/biostatistics, leads a diverse team of five faculty members. In recent months she created a discussion board titled, ‘Self Calming and Self Care,’ where students and faculty have a safe space to gather and post inspirational poems and songs, meditation practices and share their personal experiences. Additionally, Dr. Keefe is holding weekly meetings to examine student and faculty needs, such as difficulty focusing and fears for sick family members, and discuss rising social concerns.
Lyall, FNU’s academic records officer, is another example of a staff member going above and beyond to show support and care to her coworkers. Within hours of the Kentucky governor announcing that face masks would be mandatory in public places, Lyall made a campus-wide announcement that she made face masks for her colleagues.
The FNU community is thankful to have so many members displaying a culture of caring during these challenging times. As we all continue to work through the crisis, FNU is committed to remaining aligned with the standards of excellence that have made us a safe place and a reliable support center.
We encourage you to visit our COVID-19 page to be inspired by the stories of FNU students and alumni helping during the crisis and benefit from the resources provided. We are all in this together – even from afar!