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Emory’s Office of Well-Being celebrates progress, invites new microgrant ideas
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One of the inaugural EmWELL microgrants established a staff award program within Emory’s School of Medicine. Several of the 20 award recipients are shown with Carlos del Rio (left), who was the school’s interim dean at the time. Applications for the next round of microgrants are open until July 22.

The second application cycle for microgrants through the Woodruff Health Sciences Center’s Office of Well-Being (EmWELL) opened June 17.  Any Emory Healthcare or WHSC employee can apply for funding through the EmWELL Microgrants program; applications are due July 22.

Since its creation in January 2022, EmWELL has led and supported collaborative initiatives that address environmental stressors and enhance professional fulfillment and well-being for Emory Healthcare and WHSC employees and teams.

The EmWELL Microgrants program launched in spring 2023 to fund innovative evidence-based and team-focused pilots that positively impact well-being. Seven teams received funding for work ranging from quiet spaces and recognition programs to art observation and research around mindfulness micro practices.

Inaugural microgrants supported these programs:

Project 1:

Aaron Lee and Cliff Teague of the School of Medicine’s human resources team proposed a staff award program to align with faculty recognition initiatives and foster the culture of staff appreciation and recognition. The pilot was completed in December 2023, culminating with the SOM Staff Awards Luncheon that honored 20 recipients.

“I am most excited that this awards program has received approval and financial support from SOM leadership to continue,” Lee says.

Project 2:

Tina Spears and Keely Collins, physical therapists in the Emory University Hospital Rehabilitation Department, co-created an employee rewards program. The pilot included weekly prize raffles for good deeds, work anniversaries and birthdays, plus an employee recognition award.

“We've gotten tremendous buy-in from our staff,” says Spears. “I can see the positive changes in the morale of our department in a short amount of time.”

Project 3:

In “Art of Pain,” 12 fellows and faculty members from the Emory Multidisciplinary Pain fellowship program work to sharpen their observation skills, explore bias and enhance empathy during group sessions at the High Museum of Art. The pilot is led by Boris Spector, associate professor of anesthesiology; Ali John Zarrabi, assistant professor of palliative medicine; and David Boorman, senior biostatistician at the School of Medicine.

“Important, meaningful conversations have taken place at the sessions with palpable improvement in morale,” Spector says.

Project 4:

A group in Emergency Medicine is preparing for a project targeted at the residents, addressing barriers to well-being during the shift with wit and precision. Assistant professors James O’Shea and Mike Zdradzinski have worked with emergency medicine professor Michelle Lall to lay the program’s groundwork and are in final stages of Institutional Review Board approval before recruiting their initial participants.

Project 5:

Another team from Emory University Hospital – led by Jodie Smith, director of patient care practice, and Martha Boudreau, nurse practice specialist at the EUH Heart Center – is working on a multisite pilot. With more than 300 participants enrolled (over half from Emory), “Micro Practices for Stress Management in Healthcare Employees” evaluated how evidence-based practices like box-breathing and practicing gratitude impact health care staff’s perceived stress levels during predefined daily triggers. A few of the participants are already reporting benefits.

“Knowing that the practices shared in this pilot have helped at least 3 people manage their stress and find peace brings me joy,” Smith says. “My hope is that the other participants are also finding the practices helpful in some way.”

Two EmWELL pilot programs focus on team serenity and quiet spaces.

Project 6:

Kathryn Moore and Sikina McDonough, nurse leaders in the heart and vascular unit at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, designed, opened and dedicated the Code Lavender Serenity Room. The peaceful space they created includes coloring stations, fidgets, sound and aromatherapy, and continues to expand with other components that can help team members find a moment of quite in busy and often stressful times.

Project 7:

Ashley Kennedy, senior manager of clinical services, and Lisa Laundry, nurse scholar, are leading a similar project for Winship Cancer Institute staff at Emory Johns Creek Hospital. Their version takes Code Lavender on the go with Serenity Cart, as they work on the permanent room space.

Emory Healthcare and Woodruff Health Sciences Center employees can apply for the 2024 EmWELL Microgrant funding through July 22. Emory well-being champions can consider additional opportunities here.

Fellows and faculty from Emory’s multidisciplinary pain fellowship participate in an “Art of Pain” session at the High Museum of Art.

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