Faculty: Dr. Holly Wei

Dr. Holly Wei is a magician. And as an associate professor in East Carolina University’s College of Nursing, she is teaching her students to become magicians themselves.

“When I was little, I thought that nurses had the magic to ease people’s pain and discomfort, which ignited my interest in becoming one,” Wei said. “Being a nurse allows me to help others, which makes me feel fulfilled.”

And with the current coronavirus pandemic, everyone can use a little magic.

Wei knows firsthand the stress and challenges that nurses and other medical professionals are feeling amid the pandemic. She helped author a study that looked at nurses in China and provided guidance to help all nurses adjust psychologically to the demands of serving on the front lines during the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 crisis has been extremely challenging for all of us,” Wei said. “Rising evidence indicates a prevalent increase in mental health issues during the global pandemic. The risks are even more so for the front-line health care workers, especially nurses who are a major workforce in health care and are in the most proximity to patients. They are risking their lives to help patients and the public. The stress that they experience is matchless.

Dr. Holly Wei, an associate professor in ECU’s College of Nursing, works from her home. Wei is focused on supporting nurses and her students during the coronavirus pandemic.

“To make situations worse is the shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment). For example, they have to wear a mask that in the past was for single use for their whole shift now. Nurses are afraid to be infected at work, and even more so, they are scared to spread the disease to their loved ones. They also face an increased number of deaths and dying and uncertainty at work during the pandemic. All these factors can impose a significant toll on nurses’ wellbeing.”

Wei said that despite these issues, she sees a passion and commitment in her students that are unmatched.

“I am very proud of my students for what they do and how they adapt to help during a challenging time like the pandemic,” Wei said. “I had close to 80 graduate nursing students this past spring semester, the time of the eruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. My students are diverse in age, years of nursing and positions in organizations. Most of them are front-line nurses taking care of patients. The enthusiasm they showed was phenomenal. They said that what brought them to work every day was their people and the patients they served. They said they saw more camaraderie on their work teams.

“While working on the front line, these students continued to study and complete the courses with excellent achievements. Students appreciated the support from their peer students, faculty and the college leadership team, which helped them sail through the difficult time. I am proud of my students for what they do on the front line and at school.”

Wei grew up in the coastal town of Qingdao, China, an area also surrounded by mountains including Mount Laoshan, a mountain Wei said is known for its significant cultural history, spring water and green tea.

“I loved going to the beach with my friends and developed a habit of swimming in the ocean,” Wei said. “Besides swimming, I also like to hike and climb mountains.”

That passion for hiking, climbing and the outdoors continues today.

“When I am not working, I like to walk with my dog, trail run and enjoy nature and green space,” Wei said. “Cooking healthy and delicious meals for my family is another joyful thing for me to do.”

Wei started her education in China and continued at the University of North Carolina, obtaining her graduate and doctorate degrees. She came to ECU four years ago.

“I love the friendly atmosphere and the caring culture of ECU, which is like a family. While I am here, I feel at home,” said Wei, who serves on the University Budget Committee and on the Faculty Senate.

She mainly teaches leadership courses in the master’s and doctorate programs in the College of Nursing.

“I usually tell my students to enjoy the learning process while gaining knowledge,” Wei said. “Self-awareness, self-regulation, self-compassion, being positive and having inner power are ingredients for success at school and work.”

And Wei has found that success.

“Teaching students has always been my passion because I can teach many nurses to care for many more patients,” Wei said. “Developing great and caring nurses has been the most joyous achievement for me.”

First job: My first job was as a nurse in a pediatric unit. It was there that I met my husband, who was a first-year resident at the time. I love pediatrics ever since.

Guilty pleasure: Watching plants grow in my garden. My plants are my psychotherapists. I feel calm and peaceful when surrounded by the green plants, which are my mindfulness meditation helpers.

Favorite meal: My favorite meal is sweet and sour pork ribs that I cook. I like cooking and can cook various kinds of food for a week without repeating, which I do not usually do, but I can.

One thing most people don’t know about me: I am a lifetime trail runner. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, I continue to trail-run 4 to 5 miles every day without breaking any stay-at-home rules.

Additional comments: I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone and their family and friends to be safe and healthy.


Name: Holly Wei

Title: Associate Professor, ECU College of Nursing

Hometown: Qingdao, China

Colleges attended and degrees: I received my initial nursing education at the School of Nursing at Qingdao University, China. For my graduate studies, I went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I earned my Ph.D. in nursing. I am also a caring science post-doctoral scholar.


Years at ECU: Four

What I do at ECU: I am faculty in the Advanced Nursing Practice and Education Department at the College of Nursing and mainly teach leadership courses in the master and doctorate in nursing practice programs. I currently serve as the chair of the University Budget Committee and serve on the Faculty Senate for the College of Nursing.

What I love about ECU: First and foremost are the people at ECU, the leadership team, faculty and students. I love the friendly atmosphere and the caring culture of ECU, which is like a family. While I am here, I feel at home. The university’s leadership team cares about the faculty and students, which is especially apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost every day, we receive caring messages from the administrators of the university and my college, including Interim Chancellor Dr. Ron Mitchelson; the vice chancellor for Health Sciences, Dr. Mark Stacy; the dean of the College of Nursing, Dr. Sylvia Brown; the associate dean for Academic Affairs, Dr. Annette Peery; and the department chair, Dr. Robin Corbett. Their caring messages warm my heart. Even though we teach from home, fulfilling social distancing, I still feel very much connected with the support system on campus. It is the people here that make ECU stand out and great!

Research interests: My research foci are on caring culture, leadership development, chronic illness biomarkers, and clinicians’ health and wellbeing. I am currently conducting a grant study about nurse burnout, patient care quality and Telomere biology. I have collaborated locally and internationally to study ways to build clinician resilience and reduce burnout, and have published 30 peer-reviewed articles since 2016. Some of the articles are top read, downloaded or cited in the journals.


Last thing I watched on TV: The last thing that I watched on TV was “Dancing with the Stars,” which was a while ago.