Kent State Partners with Donna Karan’s Urban Zen Foundation
The notion of a partnership between Kent State University and fashion mogul Donna Karan isn’t such a strange thing to imagine. Kent State’s School of Fashion Design and Merchandising is recognized as one of the top fashion schools in the country. So it may come as surprising to learn that the new collaboration between Kent State and Karan involves not fashion, but the university’s College of Nursing.
Kent State and Karan’s Urban Zen Foundation are working together on a program focused on nursing wellness and self-care. The goal is to address issues such as nursing burnout and job-related stress.
“Nurses are on the front lines of patient care and we realized that we needed to introduce our students to modalities that can reduce stress,” said Tracey Motter, senior undergraduate program director for Kent State’s College of Nursing.
Karan founded the Urban Zen Foundation to advocate for combining Eastern and alternative healing therapies with Western medicine. In 2009, the foundation launched the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program (UZIT) to advance a more holistic approach to health care. The UZIT program includes training in yoga, essential oil therapy, Reiki, nutrition and contemplative care giving.
The collaboration started as a pilot project last September. Approximately 30 students in Kent State’s accelerated nursing program participated in the first “Care for the Caregiver” program in the fall 2010 semester. They met for an in-person class on a monthly basis, taught by UZIT’s Ed Dailey, RN, RNPA, E-RYT 500. Students also participated in weekly webinars and tracked their progress though regular journaling.
“The many stresses nurses face open them up to fatigue and potential burnout,” said Laura Dzurec, dean of Kent State’s College of Nursing. “This effort attempts to help nurses take care of themselves and advance quality care for patients.”
The partnership with Kent State is the Urban Zen Foundation’s first collaboration with a university nursing program in the country.
The pilot program also may help break down resistance to alternative approaches to self care. “This collaboration is a good fit because, as one of the largest nursing schools in the country, we have an opportunity to impact a lot of students,” Motter said. “Being located in the Midwest, we may be able to influence perceptions about alternative therapies.”
As is often the case, this collaboration came about as a result of personal connections. Earl Jones, a Kent State alumnus of the Class of 1970, mentioned to Kent State President Lester A. Lefton that he might be able to help reach out to the fashion icon to establish a relationship with its School of Fashion Design and Merchandising. A meeting was set up between Karan and representatives from the university.
Gene Finn, Kent State’s vice president for Institutional Advancement, learned about the Urban Zen Foundation at this first meeting with Karan. Finn asked David Pratt, director of advancement for the College of Nursing, to prepare a summary of what Kent State was doing with alternative medicine and therapies.
In June 2010, a small group of Kent State representatives met with Karan at her Greenwich Village loft. “Donna was extremely interested with what we were doing,” Pratt said. “She felt it was a great fit for her foundation.” The meeting led to the establishment of the self-care program at Kent State for the fall 2010 semester.
Eventually, the hope is that the care for the caregiver program could be offered to all students at the college. “It is important for nurses to understand all healthcare modalities that their patients may be using.” Motter said. “We also want to look at who else in the community is doing work in this area and investigate if we might collaborate with them.”
Dzurec feels the timing is right for the program. “These types of therapies have now been around long enough to be a part of the mainstream,” she said. “There has been a paradigm shift.”
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Ed Dailey of the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy program leads a class of Kent State nursing students.
UZIT Program Director Gillian Cilibrasi is in the background.