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Getting Help at the NIH When You Need It

From time-to-time we all experience stress. Some of it is work-related, including adjusting to a new research group, learning new techniques, experiencing conflict, negotiating authorship, discussing career goals with your mentor, preparing for a thesis committee meeting, completing job or graduate/professional school applications, and trying to balance work and personal life. Some stresses are the result of situations outside of work but affect work performance.

One antidote to stress is developing supportive relationships with your colleagues and peers at NIH and in your community. We strongly encourage you to become involved  by joining one or more NIH affinity groups. These include the Network of African-American Fellows at the NIH (NAAF); NIH LGBT Friends and Fellows (LGBt-FF); NIH SACNAS (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science); and MOM-DAD-DOCS, a group for PhDs, or those in the process of earning PhDs, who are, or are considering becoming, parents.  We also encourage you to attend networking and social activities organized by FELCOM, the GSC, or the Postbac Committee.

The NIH offers many resources to help you deal with stress, mediate conflict, and find a healthy approach to your work and life. We know from experience that trainees who take advantage of the resources available to them deal more effectively with the challenges they face, leading to a more successful and satisfying training experience. Specific resources available at the NIH are described below.

We also know that some (arguably) more serious issues may arise in the workplace, including research misconduct; harassment of any kind, including sexual harassment;and potentially unsafe working conditions. Should you experience any of these, we strongly encourage you to contact Dr. Milgram or Dr. Sokolove in the OITE immediately.

FOR HELP WITH WORKPLACE CONFLICT

If you are experiencing conflict with someone in your lab, speak with him or her directly. If that doesn't resolve the issue, speak with your PI. If you are not comfortable doing that, or if the situation is not easily resolved, seek advice from other mentors (i.e., your Institute Training Director, your Lab/Branch Chief, OITE staff, colleagues) who can help you consider the issues from different angles. If you have concerns about interactions with your PI, it is important to talk with someone you trust. Hopefully you will have devel­oped relationships with your Training Director, Lab/Branch Chief or with more senior trainees/staff in the lab. Feel free to come by the OITE at any time to talk confidentially about the issues you are facing.

Office of the Ombudsman, Center for Cooperative Resolution (CCR)

Building 31, Room 2B63

301-594-7231

The NIH Office of the Ombudsman, Center for Cooperative Resolution (CCR) is a neutral, independent, and confidential resource providing assistance to NIH scientists, administrators, trainees, and support staff. The NIH Ombudsman helps in addressing work-related issues such as authorship and other scientific disputes, employee-supervisor conflict, racial and ethnic tensions, and conflicts between peers. An NIH ombudsman can help you develop a strategy for dealing with a challenging situation and can identify resources relevant to your concerns.  An ombudsman will not reveal to anyone that you contacted the CCR without your specific permission to do so (except in cases of an imminent risk of serious harm). The CCR is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm and can be flexible in scheduling appointments after hours.  Please call 301-594-7231 to schedule an appointment or for more information.

Civil

301-402-4845

CIVIL is a coordinated NIH resource that strives to attain its vision of "An NIH Work Environment Free of Acts and Threats of Violence". Call CIVIL if you need help assessing the potential serious­ness of a threatening situation; you are experiencing a threatening situation at work and need intervention from trained staff; you become aware of a workplace situation involving intimidating, harassing, or other unproductive/dangerous behaviors and need consultation; a situation involving threats or aggressive acts already has occurred and you need assistance managing the aftermath and its effect on staff; or you need help in addressing your own aggressive reactions to a workplace situation.

What If You Suspect Research Misconduct?

"The research community and the community at large rightly expect adherence to exemplary standards of intellectual honesty in the formulation, conduct, and reporting of scientific research. Allegations of research misconduct are taken seriously by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The process of investigating allegations must be balanced by equal concern for protecting the integrity of the research as well as the careers and reputations of researchers." This is the way the document entitled "NIH Intramural Research Program Policies & Procedures for Research Misconduct Proceedings" begins. You can find all the advice you need on dealing with suspected research misconduct in this document, and you can get advice in person from Dr. Melissa Colbert, the NIH Agency Intramural Research Integrity Officer.  esearch misconduct is serious business! You should also know that individuals who report possible research misconduct in good faith are protected from retaliation.

What if You Are the Victim of Sexual Harassment?

The NIH is committed to an environment free of harassment. Sexual harassment is most often defined using the wording of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The guidelines state:

"Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individuals, or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

A key part of the definition is the use of the word unwelcome. Unwelcome or uninvited conduct or communication of a sexual nature is prohibited; welcome or invited actions or words are not unlawful. Sexual or romantic interaction between consenting people at work may be offensive to observers or may violate company policy, but it is not sexual harassment."

Another important thing to remember is that sexual harassment can occur between individuals of different sexes or the same sex. Finally, harassment based on gender identity is also unacceptable.

If you believe that you may be the victim of sexual harassment, please come to the OITE immediately.  Dr. Milgram and Dr. Sokolove are available to discuss the situation and help you to access NIH resources that can assist you.

FOR ASSISTANCE WITH ISSUES IN THE WORKPLACE AND BEYOND

NIH Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Building 31, B2B57

301-496-3164

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a confidential service available to NIH trainees and their significant others. You can visit the EAP to discuss work or life concerns including life transitions, work-life balance, career progression, substance abuse, family dynamics, or any other issues that might affect your ability to succeed as a postdoc. EAP has an open-door policy and is open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday; you can also call for immediate assistance.

HEALTH AND WELLNESS RESOURCES

Contact an OITE Wellness Counselor. 

We all do our best work when we are feeling well and feeling good about ourselves. Both Michael Sheridan and Julia Jarvis are available to make one-on-one appointmens to discuss issues that may be preventing you from doing your best work.

Mindfulness Meditation Group

Would you like to have at least one time a week that you could slow down and connect with yourself? This drop-in meditation group is being offered to trainees/fellows as a support for self-care and enhanced wellbeing as part of the OITE Wellness Program. Each 30-minute session will involve a few minutes of instruction followed by approximately 20 minutes of meditation practice. The facilitator will be available after the session for questions and brief discussions. This group is open to both beginners and experienced meditators; attendance can be on a drop-in basis - come as much as you like!

Incorporating Mindfulness into Your Life (a videocast)

NIH Recreation & Welfare Association (R&W)

R&W is an organization designed to provide trainees and employees at NIH with a variety of social, athletic, wellness, educational, and special interest activities. It also focuses on building an NIH sense of community and charitable outreach. R&W publishes a monthly newsletter describing services on campus and also offers planned excur­sions and discounted tickets to various activities and events. Additionally, the Association runs fitness centers and gift shops located throughout campus. To join R&W you must pay an annual membership fee of $7.00.

NIH Fitness Centers

NIH fitness centers are run by the NIH Recreation and Welfare (R&W) Association. Services include weight rooms, aerobics, yoga classes, Weight Watchers, and personal trainers.

NEED HELP NOW?

Sometimes things happen: a parent passes away; you suspect a child is being abused; you have been abused; you want help stopping smoking; you are experiencing a mental health crisis. Montgomery County (the county in which Bethesda is located) Crisis Services External Link is a good place to start.