The Science and Spirit of Wellbeing

We are pleased to profile another innovative pharmacy elective course this week – an online course taught by Dr. Meg Little.  

Wellbeing and the Healthcare Professional

Healthcare professionals advocate for the health and wellbeing of their patients, but often do not invest in their own wellbeing. More and more pharmacy students today struggle with stress, depression, anxiety, sleep-deprivation, and unhealthy eating, which not only affects their own quality of life, but can also impact academic success and their capacity to care for patients. Course Director, Meg Little, EdD, RN states:

Meg Little
Dr. Little

“Once you are immersed in it [wellbeing practices] and have a clear plan, then you are able to truly take care of yourself. We are so other-focused, as health care professionals, and do not often spend enough time taking care of ourselves.”

Dr. Little strives to improve students’ self-care habits by fostering an environment of exploration within the various areas of wellbeing in her elective course The Science and Spirit of Wellbeing. This course provides an introduction to evidence-based wellbeing practices for self and implications for wellbeing of others.  Dr. Little reminds us:

“There is nothing new about wellbeing. Mindfulness, for example, has been a part of Tibetan Medicine for millennia. But wellbeing is a new area of study for pharmacy. Pharmacists are our drug experts, so naturally addressing patients’ drug problems is central to our curriculum. A holistic approach to patient care – considering body, mind and spirit – can only improve practice. Students who have taken the class see the connection between their own wellbeing and ability to care for patients.”

The topics discussed are also highly relevant and timely for today’s health care provider. Wellbeing, holistic medicine, and complementary care are commonplace now. Consumers expect healthcare professionals to speak to these issues.

Individualizing to Student Interests

Wellbeing Model
Center for Spirituality and Healing Wellbeing Model

While a progression of pre-determined wellbeing topics is incorporated into the course, students have some freedom to customize the content to their particular interests, while still achieving course objectives.  Dr. Little introduces a variety of wellbeing models for students to consider. The University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality & Healing Wellbeing Model, created by Director Mary Jo Kreitzer, RN, PhD, FAAN, is one of the models. Students are encouraged to explore each of the wellbeing domains and select one self-care goal to pursue for the semester.  This becomes the focus of their own wellbeing journey.  

In order to foster a safe and collaborative learning community online, Dr. Little conveys the connection between education, life, and wellbeing. Students often respond well with active participation because of their personal investment in wellbeing and deep reflection that follows.

Using Evidence

For each wellbeing domain, Dr. Little distills the scientific literature down to manageable readings that can give the students a taste of each topic and more opportunity to actually do the activities, whether it be meditation, yoga, self-compassion, etc. Following study, online class discussions are conducted using interactive programs such as FlipGrid and VoiceThread. The use of cell phone applications and involvement in live programs or events is also encouraged – not only to benefit the student and his/her own wellbeing, but to have a greater awareness of resources in the community for patient referral and education in the future.  

Learning via Experience

In teaching this course, Dr. Little exudes the Constructivist Learning Theory, in that she believes that students should build and construct their own understanding and knowledge of wellbeing. Similar to the Continuous Quality Improvement elective, this course allows students to learn through personal experience and reflecting on that experience. In considering the past few offerings of this course, Dr. Little has observed students’ growth in their own wellbeing practices:

“The Science and Spirit of Wellbeing gives students a new understanding of what it means to ‘treat the whole person’ by first applying principles to their own lives.”

The transformative learning that occurs is one of the greatest rewards!