Kennesaw State’s Center for Health Promotion and Wellness recently accepted a $3,500 grant from the American Health Foundation to fund a program that helps nursing students stay healthy and manage their stress.
The grant money will help to support Staying Healthy in Nursing School, or SHINS, a program created by senior nursing major Alison Mutton to help her peers succeed while maintaining their health. Sherry Grable, director of the Center for Health Promotion and Wellness, accepted the award at the AHF’s annual meeting this year in Austin, Texas.
“The grant brings a fresh surge of enthusiasm to keep this program moving forward,” Mutton said.
SHINS is a yearlong program designed to encourage students to set exercise, free time, nutrition and social connectedness goals while participating in the program’s monthly health challenges. The AHF’s grant will help fund healthy activities for nursing students such as new cooking demonstration classes and specialized yoga sessions. It will also fund more sophisticated software to track student progress and allow the department to hire an intern.
Grable and her team will put on cooking demonstrations promoting healthy eating. Students will learn to make dishes such as Greek Pita Pizza, Breakfast on the Go, Slammin’ Salmon Tacos, Grillin’ and Chillin’ Burgers and You Have a Pizza My Heart.
The group also plans to hire a separate yoga instructor to hold sessions in the health sciences building on the Kennesaw campus to make the sessions more accessible to nursing students.
“Bringing yoga to them will make it easy to relax, have fun and encourage social interaction among their peers,” Grable said.
Mutton founded the program in fall 2016 when she found a few other students during orientation who wanted to focus on staying healthy during school. They held each other accountable to their health and fitness goals, and they created 30-day challenge to ensure they were getting the exercise they needed. Students continued to join their group until they had over one hundred nursing students in the program.
Many of the nursing students in the program, like senior nursing major Rachel Howard, believe SHINS offers a community where students can support each other and hold each other accountable.
“Now that I’m part of the SHINS program, it’s a lot easier for me to make goals for myself, both as part of the program and with goals outside of the particular challenge each month,” Howard said. “I’m a lot more motivated to work toward them when I have so much support.”
Each month, students that choose to participate receive a different health challenge that focuses on nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness. These challenges include increasing physical activity, eating five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, drinking water, getting enough sleep, meditation or practicing time management.
“For nursing students with a very full schedule, the idea of adding something to their jam-packed schedule can be overwhelming,” Grable said. “This program will encourage those participating to set realistic and attainable goals that work with their schedules.”
Students also receive incentives for completing health challenges throughout the year. For every challenge completed, students will receive a charm to go on a chain bracelet that students can either wear around their wrists or attach to their backpacks. The school will also choose the top three students at the end of each month to receive a $15 prize that encourages healthy living such as a yoga mat, a bag of healthy groceries, an adult coloring book or a relaxation CD.
“Too often, nursing students wear exhaustion as a badge of honor,” Mutton said. “The SHINS program gives nursing students a chance to see self-care as something of which to be proud.”
A planning committee consisting of nursing students, health educators, dietitians, licensed professional counselors, exercise science professionals and nursing faculty are working to lead the program and will be available to students throughout the year to help craft and reach realistic goals.
“We want a generation of healthy nurses that are going to be able to be energetic caregivers for the rest of their lives,” senior nursing major Robin McCarthy said.