WellNurse UMaine Nursing

WellNurse is an initiative made possible by a $1.5 million award from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration to support and advance health and public safety workforce resiliency training.

WellNurse is a research and interprofessional program in collaboration with the UMaine School of Food and Agriculture, Clinical Psychology Program and New Balance Student Recreation Center. It serves the School of Nursing and ultimately will be a model for health professional programs throughout the University of Maine System.

Meet the Team


Kelley Strout, Ph.D., RN, Principal Investigator

Rebecca Schwartz-Mette, Ph.D, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Co-Investigator, MBSR Lead

Jade MacNamara, Ph.D., RD, Co-Investigator, Nutrition Lead

Liam O’Brien, Ph.D., Statistician, Colby College

Project Team Members

Josh Bridges, Fitness Lead

Dyan Walsh, MSW, Project Manager

Gwyn Esty-Kendall, (credentials), Student Success and Wellness Coordinator 

Graduate students

Maile Sapp Ed.M., CMPC,  Clinical Psychology PhD Student

Kayla Parsons, MS, RDN Graduate Research Assistant PhD Student in Food & Nutrition Sciences

Lydia Sprague, RN, BSN,  Graduate Assistant,  Nursing

Nima Sajedi Sabegh, PhD Student Electrical Engineering

Social Media Specialist

Savannah Beard

Professional Partners

Brown Center on Mindfulness (link)

First Year Research Learning Experience. How will I thrive as a nursing student?

This immersive bridge week introduces students to artistic and scientific practices, focusing on their impact on health and well-being. Students participate in evidence-based resilience and well-being interventions, including mindfulness, yoga, belonging activities, student success workshops, and research design. Some students engage in mindful physical activity, while others participate in a mindful nutrition MasterChef program. After the bridge week, all students complete the one-credit NUR150 Scholarship of Wellness and Mindfulness course, which includes booster doses of interventions and assessments. FitBits are provided to analyze data related to the interventions.


Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is an 8-week program developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979, consisting of weekly classes and a silent retreat. Participants engage in evidence-based mindfulness practices such as meditation, mindful walking, cognitive reframing, and communication strategies. MBSR cultivates self-awareness by redirecting attention to the present moment, helping individuals change stress reactivity patterns and develop adaptive coping skills. This reduces distress, prevents negative outcomes, and has been effective in reducing burnout among nurses and addressing symptoms of PTSD, depression, substance use relapse, and binge-eating. Mindfulness training has also shown positive impacts on college students’ ability to withstand stress, while medical students have experienced improved happiness, self-confidence, endurance, and patience. MBSR is associated with decreased stress and burnout while increasing resilience, coping, and job satisfaction among nurses.


The impact of mental health on physical health outcomes in college students is significant, with higher levels of anxiety, stress, and depression being associated with poorer diet quality. Several factors, including intrapersonal, interpersonal, and community influences, shape dietary choices among college students. Furthermore, incorporating gamified learning or game design elements into education has shown promise in enhancing college students’ learning experiences. Based on these findings, the Master Chef: Nursing Edition Curriculum was developed. This evidence-based nutrition education curriculum combines nutrition education, mindful eating, and body appreciation into a cooking competition where students create and vote on meals. The curriculum aims to promote positive health behaviors, improve diet quality, and mitigate the risk of diet-related chronic diseases among college students by enhancing nutrition knowledge, mindful eating practices, and cooking self-efficacy.

View video with transcript

A photo of students participating in a race

5K races

WellNurse Participants have the opportunity to receive a complimentary Fitbit as part of the program. Fitness trainers offer 5K training sessions in both the fall and spring semesters to prepare participants for the Black Bear and Healthy High 5K walk or runs. Additionally, nursing-specific fitness courses like yoga and full-body workouts are available at the campus recreation center to foster a sense of community around fitness. Fitbit devices may be integrated into class assignments through fitness step challenges. Numerous studies have shown that physical activity reduces stress and anxiety, which are associated with increased burnout and decreased resilience among nurses.

Wellness Room

The School of Nursing transformed a conference room into the WellNurse Room, representing a commitment to supporting the resilience of students, faculty, and staff. This renovation also aims to enhance recruitment into the MBSR program by providing dedicated space for weekly guided mindfulness practice. The WellNurse Room features floral murals, live plants, aromatherapy, meditation cushions, light therapy, coloring books, and tactile engagement. It is equipped with meditation cushions and a massage therapy table, with licensed massage therapists offering complimentary sessions weekly throughout the year. Aromatherapy and massage therapy have been shown to reduce stress. In addition to the physical space, free workshops are offered to promote healthy behavior change through evidence-based practices. Led by interdisciplinary team members, these workshops address topics such as diet quality, sleep, and managing test anxiety. Workshop announcements are shared through social media and email, with optional in-person and virtual sessions held monthly, and recordings available upon request.

WellNurse News and Accomplishments

A photo of Kayla Parsons holding an award

2023 Outstanding Graduate Student Employee Award

Kayla Parsons, registered dietitian nutritionist, a second-year Ph.D. student at the University of Maine, and Graduate Assistant on UMaine School of Nursing’s WellNurse research study, received the 2023 Outstanding Graduate Student Employee Award for UMaine and all of New England. Parsons developed a workshop, “Eat Well to Test Well,” for nursing students to help improve diet quality and nutrition knowledge through a gamified cooking-based workshop, leading to improved academic success and other health behaviors. Parson’s modified the workshop for a national audience to expand support for health sciences students.

Parsons also developed the curriculum MasterChef Nursing Edition and an interactive 4- session course to promote positive health behaviors and improve diet quality.

Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year Award

Kayla Parsons, Ph.D. student in food and nutrition science, and Graduate Assistant on UMaine School of Nursing’s WellNurse research study, won the Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year award.