MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS AND FATIGUE MITIGATION
The following policies relate to student mental health, wellness, and fatigue mitigation. These policies were developed by students, faculty, and administration and approved by the WCUCOM Curriculum Council.
Background / rationale
Stress and fatigue is a common experience in medical school. The longitudinal curriculum is expansive in volume, depth and students are required to assimilate, integrate and apply material in increasingly complex labs, simulations, cases and written cognitive examinations. This along with the competitive environment of academic standing and future medical residency training places steady stress on students. When this continual stress is combined with a lack of sleep, poor unhealthy eating habits, demands for attention from family, lack of physical activity, and poor time management it can result in physical as well as emotional exhaustion and can have negative impact on academic performance, health and well-being. The intent of this policy is to be proactive in providing education and resources to prevent and mitigate stress and fatigue, as well as to promote strategies for lifelong approaches to health and wellness as a component of professional responsibility.
WCUCOM is committed to promoting medical education, safety and well-being in a supportive educational environment and ensuring students appear appropriately rested and appear mentally and physically fit for educational responsibilities. This policy provides guidance on methods available to provide education and provide available resources regarding:
- Recognizing the signs of fatigue and sleep deprivation;
- Understanding strategies for alertness management, protect against fatigue and strategies to mitigate fatigue; and
- Learning about mental health and available resources for stress management and strategies for overall life balance.
Medical Student: Any medical student enrolled in WCUCOM undergraduate medical education program, including preclinical and clinical training years.
Fatigue: The policy addresses Fatigue at a level causing cognitive and/or motor impairment. Fatigue is defined as weariness or exhaustion from exertion and stress and it can manifest in physical and/or mental symptoms causing impairment in functioning. The symptoms of fatigue are extremely varied, including but not limited to: lack of energy/motivation, difficulty concentrating, impaired reasoning, anxiety, or mood swings.
Physical abnormalities can also contribute to fatigue. These include, but are not limited to, the following: sleep apnea, depression, anemia, impaired cardiopulmonary health, thyroid malfunction, and diabetes. Prescription and over-the-counter medications, including those used in treating the aforementioned diseases, can also increase the symptoms of fatigue.
Students are responsible for completing curriculum on fatigue, health and wellness. Any concerns regarding fatigue, health and wellness including perceived symptoms (stress, anxiety, depression, exhaustion etc.) of self or others, may be reported to administration (COM Dean, Associate Dean of Student Affairs, Associate Dean Academic Affairs, or Associate Dean Clinical Sciences). Appropriate steps will be taken to investigate the concern confidentially and identify appropriate strategies to address the concern.
The follow steps will be required to address Fatigue Mitigation that causes impairment and inability to continue with required academic or professional duties:
- Individuals are strongly advised to seek medical attention from a physician to ensure that there are no other acute health concerns that might require medical attention;
- If a student will miss an exam, the steps of the WCUCOM the exam policy must be followed;
- If a student will miss a required activity (lab/lecture) etc., the student must provide a physician’s signed note documenting that the absence is “due to fatigue” and provide a duration and date that the student will be “fit to return to class”;
Strategies for Education
WCUCOM will provide annual education available for all faculty members, students and staff on recognizing the signs of fatigue and sleep deprivation, and information on alertness management as well as self-care and life balance.
Resource: LIFE Curriculum http://med.stanford.edu/gme/duke_life/
Strategies for Fatigue Mitigation and Health and Wellness:
- The attendance policy allows students to miss up to 20% of a class. This provides flexibility to students who are fatigued to take the time to rest within the academic year;
- The preclinical academic allows for flexible time for study, life balance and rest if needed. This also allows flexible time for faculty and staff to balance various responsibilities with the goal of reducing stress and fatigue; and
WCUCOM provides limited number of free confidential counseling services each year for students. Services are provided by outside mental health providers and are completely anonymous to WCUCOM. To schedule a confidential appointment on the Hattiesburg campus, contact the office of the vice president for student support at (601) 318-6188.
In order to provide access and equity of mental health services for all students throughout the continuum of preclinical and clinical education, WCUCOM students have access to ProtoCall at 601-318-6062. This unique telehealth access has been provided to enable access to mental health services regardless of location and enables 24-hour access. The following are local mental health services that students may access confidential services during business hours:
- Wesley Behavioral Health Services- 239 Methodist Boulevard, Hattiesburg, Mississippi 39401 268.5026;
- March Holistic Christian Therapy,-M-F 8:00-5:00PM; S 9:00-12:00PM 805 W Pine Street, Hattiesburg MS 39401 268.8796;
- Pine Belt Mental Health; or
- Forrest General Hospital.
To supplement these services, another confidential telephone hotline is available to WCUCOM students from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. on weekdays and 24-hours a day on weekends and holidays. This telephone hotline is a confidential service and may be accessed by calling 228-5965654. The primary function of this service is to provide WCUCOM students the opportunity for stabilization and intervention options outside of regular office hours.
These providers accept all major insurances including the policy offered by WCUCOM. For a complete listing of providers offered on the WCUCOM insurance plan, please visit https://www.uhc.com/find-a-physician
If there are significant concerns of due to fatigue or life balance (e.g. resulting from health issues, life events or others), Leave of Absence (LOA) is available for students to take a break from academic requirements and return when issues have been addressed. LOA’s can be requested through The Office of Student Affairs.
In addition, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This service is not owned or operated by WCU or WCUCOM, and the provider ensures confidentiality. This service may be accessed by calling 1.800.273.8255.
All WCUCOM students must maintain health insurance.
Since fatigue may be related to physical abnormalities, students experiencing continued fatigue are encouraged to seek medical advice from their healthcare provider.
Students are encouraged to engage a family physician or other primary care provider as the optimal source of healthcare while at WCUCOM. Students with health care needs who do not have a provider will be referred to The Family Practice/After-Hours Clinic (110 Millsaps Drive, Hattiesburg, MS 39402; 601.261.5710; http://familypracticeafterhoursclinic.com).
For emergencies, students should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.
In Hattiesburg, Forrest General Hospital and Wesley Medical Center are the local hospitals with emergency departments:
6051 U.S. Highway 49
P.O. Box 16389
Hattiesburg, MS 39404-6389
General Information/Main Number: 601.288.7000
5001 Hardy Street
Hattiesburg, MS 39402
General Information/Main Number: 601.268.8000
- The William Carey Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment Clinic is located in the Mary Ross Hall. OMT services are available for students, faculty, staff and the families of faculty and staff. For appointments call (601) 318-6584;
- The WCUCOM Office of Student Affairs and WCU Office of Student Services should be notified of any changes in a student’s health that may impact his or her studies; and
- The Office of Clinical Rotations maintains a list of willing providers for WCUCOM students in each of our hubsite locations and each list can be found on the WCUCOM website under the current student tab, https://www.wmcarey.edu/page/com/hubsite-willing-provider-list.
Note: Any health professional providing health services, via a therapeutic relationship, must recuse him/herself from the academic assessment or promotion of the student receiving those services.