FROM THE OFFICE OF INTRAMURAL TRAINING AND EDUCATION
OITE Wellness Support
Although doing research requires perseverance and tolerating setbacks, the COVID-19 pandemic has sent the world reeling—especially for NIH trainees. On March 16, the NIH intramural program shifted all non-mission-critical laboratory operations into a maintenance mode, which meant that almost all labs were closed down. As a result, most NIH employees and trainees began teleworking. Trainees are especially worried about how the interruption might affect their careers. Sure, they can analyze data and write up their research at home, but many may worry about falling behind. They may become overwhelmed by feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression; some are even experiencing “imposter fears” (feeling like a phony). And those who were already worried and stressed out about their work before the pandemic, are suffering even more.
For the past five years, the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) has been offering wellness resources to help trainees build the resiliency needed to succeed in intense high-knowledge environments and throughout life. But some trainees have been hesitant to reach out for help—they may not feel supported and may worry that taking part in wellness activities might mean diverting attention away from the lab and their careers.
Now with the the stress and uncertainties brought on by the pandemic, OITE has vigorously expanded their wellness resources and brought them online. The OITE staff has also been educating PIs about the importance of wellness activities for their trainees. And trainees are being reassured that taking part in wellness activities is essential for their mental health and successful careers. Of course, OITE continues to offer its other services including career counseling and guidance, virtual poster days, and virtual job fairs.
Based on the simple mantra, “To do well, we have to be well,” OITE’s expanded wellness program offers online activities in the form of workshops and webinars on stress management and other topics; small-group activities; guided meditation; Wellness Wednesday Brown-Bag Lunches; presentations offering practical advice such as “maintaining connections while socially distancing”; and an OITE blog on wellness with posts such as “Job Searching During Uncertain Times,” “Keeping Stress from Derailing Your Work and Life,” and “Caring for Your Mental Health During a Pandemic.”
OITE wellness advisors are leading confidential discussion groups, too. Some discussions are for specific diverse groups including trainees of color, trainees with disabilities, international trainees, trainees with mental-health concerns, and trainees in the LGBTQ+ community. Trainees feel validated and more connected to the scientific community when they can converse with their peers about coping with anxiety, loneliness, career transitions, and other stressors.
OITE also offers online resources to help NIH faculty, advisors, and staff support themselves and their trainees during the coronavirus pandemic—https://www.training.nih.gov/assisting_the_distressed_trainee—and produced a video titled “Supporting Yourself and Your Trainees During the Coronavirus Pandemic,” which can be found at https://youtu.be/q6XP3qnvMVA.
Even as staff and trainees slowly transition back to campus, it will be important to continue the conversations about the challengestrainees are facing. OITE will continue to offer wellness resources and advising, career guidance, discussion groups, leadership training, guided meditations, and many other resources.
In order to do well, we must be well.
- Wellness resources for trainees, including links to recorded webinars on wellness topics: https://www.training.nih.gov/wellness
- Contact list for various groups and activities: https://www.training.nih.gov/contact
- Resources for trainee supervisors: https://www.training.nih.gov/assisting_the_distressed_trainee
- Video “Supporting Yourself and Your Trainees During the Coronavirus Pandemic”: https://youtu.be/q6XP3qnvMVA
- “NIH Guidance for Staff on Coronavirus”: https://employees.nih.gov/pages/coronavirus/
- NIH “Wellness Resources” page: https://employees.nih.gov/pages/coronavirus/wellness-resources.aspx
This page was last updated on Wednesday, March 23, 2022