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Nursing PhD student to address mind and body wellness in Commencement speech

By Kaylee Pugliese

UMass Chan Medical School Communications

May 27, 2022

Jennifer DiBenedetto, MS, RN, will address the importance of self-care to counter burnout when she speaks on behalf of the Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing Class of 2022 at the UMass Chan Medical School 49th Commencement ceremony on Sunday, June 5.

DiBenedetto, a PhD student, did her dissertation on Distant Reiki, a Japanese form of energy healing, and its influence on stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has been practicing for nearly a decade and teaches Reiki privately in Worcester.

“When I first wanted to get into Reiki, I was just looking for another way to promote self-care,” she said. “How can we as nurses be able to take better care of ourselves? Throughout my entire education, I was trying to find ways to reduce stress, since being a student is incredibly stressful. It positively impacted my own stress and anxiety levels.”

Studying the connection between the mind and the body is important, DiBenedetto said, as the mind can influence the body. The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic was particularly hard on nurses, she said.

“When you’re stressed or anxious, you feel your heart rate increase, or for some people, they even could have stroke-like symptoms,” DiBenedetto said. “I have been so curious about how these modalities worked. Why is it that when you stick a needle for acupuncture, I suddenly feel so much better than when I arrived?”

Before enrolling at UMass Chan, the Shrewsbury native earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Rivier University and a master’s degree in nursing leadership from Framingham State University.

She has eight years of experience as a nurse at Saint Vincent Hospital, including five years in the ICU, where she integrated her passion for mind-body medicine. She is also an assistant professor in the DNP Online Graduate Nursing Program at Regis College.

“Over time, I saw some of the barriers and the resistance to these types of modalities begin to lessen,” she said. “I wanted to find a way where we could utilize these types of therapies to help with nursing burnout, help patients be more in tune with their nurse and improve that relationship.”

UMass Chan has been monumental in her education, she said, and she is honored and humbled to be delivering the commencement speech to her class.

“My final message is just to continue to be curious—continue to work hard, continue to research, continue to help thy neighbor, continue to be connected to others and, ultimately, help our discipline move forward,” she said.

Related UMass Chan news story:
Graduate School of Nursing celebrates the Class of 2019