Keeping nursing students’ mental health at the forefront
By Erinn Connor
Burnout is often discussed as an issue for doctors and nurses, but what about students studying medicine? The well-being of her fellow students was of interest to Ivy Yip, a new graduate of the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. During her undergraduate years, Yip undertook research to explore whether Midwestern nursing students would seek mental health services and how social support, perceived benefits and barriers, stigma, seriousness and susceptibility of mental health problems were perceived by nursing students. She was the only undergraduate student to present her research at the annual Palmer Research Symposium, and also shared her work at the Midwestern Nursing Research Society and Loyola’s Weekend of Excellence.
How did you get the idea for your research project?
Nurses are expected to help and be there for others always. Student nurses already face significant stress that accompanies college and transition. We face additional stress from caregiving, witnessing illnesses and deaths, commuting, lack of sleep, and rigorous curriculum. However, few studies have looked at nursing students’ mental health. Therefore, it felt right to me to learn more about how student nurses view mental illness, stigma, social support, barrier and benefits to seeking help in hopes of finding ways to facilitate healthy coping among student nurses. Finally, Dr. Lindsey Garfield helped bring this idea forward despite obstacles and we will work on getting this study published. Undeniably, she has been the strongest advocate for this project and mentor for me at Loyola and beyond.
How are you hoping this mental health research helps your fellow students and current nurses? What’s your next step with this research?
When I began this research, I hypothesized that nursing students will compare favorably to other students in their perception of mental illness and seeking help. However, the study results did not show a significant difference between nursing students and non-nursing students in how they perceived stigma, barriers and benefits to seeking treatment and social support. One interesting finding is that student nurses did receive less professional help in the past year due to having other forms of social support, such as friends, family, and faculty. In the future, I hope to recruit more participants and look in-depth into social determinants of mental health and stigma against mental illness and seeking help among nursing students.
What do you see yourself doing in nursing after Loyola?
I hope to work as a nurse caring for patients on chronic ventilators in their homes. I am also excited to continue research work with healthy aging at Loyola and with Population Study of Chinese Elderly in Chicago at Rush University.
How has Loyola shaped the type of nurse you see yourself becoming?
Loyola’s mission for social justice, faith, and service for others left strong imprints on me. Faith now plays an important role in my life and has translated into my positivity and care at the bedside. As a first-generation student from China, I’ve learned to understand the disparities and hardship my family faced, appreciate their resilience, and to dedicate my time to making health and education more accessible to people and communities. The relationships I built at Loyola helped me take pride in where I am and march on to where I want to be.
What’s one message you have for your peers and other nursing students who are interested in research?
Do it. Research really isn’t this exclusive thing that only a few students can do. In fact, student nurses have basic research skills already because we constantly have to bridge the gap of knowledge or understanding in the clinical setting. Conducting this study as well as working with Dr. Lisa Skemp on Healthy Aging in Edgewater have taught me patience, listening, asking questions, understanding and connected me with many wonderful people and opportunities that I couldn’t have imagined.