We know from the literature that both individual and systemic/organisational aspects and the interaction between these aspects influence stress levels. However, we do not yet know what interventions are effective in reducing students’ stress in higher education, especially in medical education.
''Research we are conducting to better understand stress in higher education, and reduce it''
Within the LEARN programme – which is a multidisciplinary research group of medical specialists, nurses, social scientists (educational science, psychology, sociology, business and economics), linguists, basic and applied health scientists, teachers and students – several researchers and educators attempt to better understand student stress and are involved in designing and researching interventions that support students in reducing their stress levels. Also, the University of Groningen, under the umbrella of its Teaching Academy, is driven to take action to help reduce stress. In 2019, SCOPE –the UMCG Center of Expertise for Personal Development– was founded. Within SCOPE, evidence-informed education that focuses on stress-management and personal (leadership) development has been developed for all students of the Faculty of Medical Sciences.
The Juggle Study
Until now, we have set up and conducted a longitudinal cohort study (‘the Juggle study’) among medical students from year 1 to 6. Our aim is to gain better insight into medical students’ distress and performance, the influencing factors and how this evolves and is influenced over time. Data collection is still ongoing, but preliminary analyses show that within the bachelor phase, 67% of students experience low distress over time, 11% show a decrease in distress over time, and 11% an increase. Furthermore, we have learned that being more self-critical and having poor attention regulation (planning, concentration) are longitudinal predictors of distress.
Support in dealing with stress and personal development
Due to the outcome of our studies, for undergraduate bachelor students in Medicine, Dentistry and Human Movement Sciences, students in the GSMS CPE and MMIT Research Masters, and PhD-students in the GSMS, training modules (workshops, courses) have been designed and implemented to support them in both dealing with stress and personal development. The focus of the modules is on individual aspects such as increasing self-efficacy, self-compassion and mindfulness as well as on systemic aspects including students’ environment.