Guidebook For The Beginning Of The Study Period

Researchers within the framework of the EMPOWER FOR 21 project have prepared a special manual in Slovene language titled “Življenjski prehodi” aimed at students at the beginning of their studies.

This is the first manual of its kind in the Slovenian higher education space, offering information on topics such as time management, relationships, sexuality, addictions, etc. Students will also find descriptions of the most common challenges of this period, as well as ideas on how to effectively cope with them.

The manual originates from the English version developed by Canadian psychology experts. Based on a professional review, it was adapted by experts from UKC Maribor and MF UM according to cultural characteristics. These experts include Prof. Hojka Gregorič Kumperščak, MD, PhD, an expert in child and adolescent psychiatry, Nina Vučinič, MSc in psychology, Sara Plakolm Erlač, BA in psychology, and Prof. Norbert Skokauskas, MD, PhD, an expert in child and adolescent psychiatry from NTNU, Norway.

This material is available to all interested parties, on this website or via a direct link. Some libraries across Slovenia will also offer printed copies for borrowing.

Yesterday, on December 13, 2023, a ceremonial opening of the laparoscopic simulator took place at the Faculty of Medicine. The advanced equipment, acquired as part of the collaborative project EMPOWER FOR 21, will enable medical students to engage in in vitro simulation of surgical procedures. The laparoscopic simulator, fully funded through the Norwegian Financial Mechanism and Slovenian participation, is a valuable addition to medical education.

During the event, a representative from the company responsible for supplying the simulator practically demonstrated its use, providing comprehensive information about the simulator itself and its operation. Participants had the opportunity to personally test the simulator, contributing to a better understanding of its functionality.

Simultaneously, a productive debate unfolded regarding the possibilities of incorporating the simulator into specialized training and discussions about its integration into the curriculum. The laparoscopic simulator represents a modern device allowing medical students to simulate surgical interventions, enhancing critical thinking skills in the resolution of procedural challenges.

Within the EMPOWER FOR 21 project, the Faculty of Medicine and the University Medical Centre Maribor aim to further integrate the laparoscopic simulator into the educational program. This initiative aims to provide students with more opportunities to gain practical experience and improve their skills before entering clinical environments.

Through this project and the acquired simulator, we reinforce the excellence of our educational system, ensuring that future healthcare professionals receive the best possible training for their future careers.

As part of the international project EMPOWER FOR 21, we successfully conducted the third series of popular workshops on communication, leadership, and digital communication this week!

Committed to education and skills enhancement, we invited experienced lecturers Franko Bertoncelj and Marko Šopar, both psychologists from Aletheia company. They provided participants with valuable insights and tools for smoother functioning in the professional environment. In the 5-hour workshops, attendees gained fundamental knowledge on the mentioned topics, which they further deepened through concrete examples and hands-on training.

Participants were not only enthusiastic about the acquired knowledge but also about the relaxed and enjoyable workshop delivery, along with the professionalism of the presenters. They expressed a desire for future workshop repetitions, recognizing the acquired knowledge as a crucial tool for better interpersonal relationships both in the workplace and beyond.


It has been over a year since the commencement of the EMPOWER FOR 21 project, which advocates for empowering 21st-century professionals in the fields of communication and leadership, caring for mental health, and the use of critical thinking in their work. During this time, educational workshops on these areas have taken place, and educational modules/programs have been developed, with the aim of sustainable implementation in the future. To finalize the program for teaching about mental disorders, our experts from the Medical Faculty of the University of Maribor and the University Medical Center Maribor visited our Norwegian project partner to gain experience and knowledge.

The study visit to the Kingdom of Norway took place from September 21 to 25, specifically at the branch of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Oslo.

As the visit was primarily dedicated to developing a program for teaching about mental disorders, experts reviewed the work already done on the project and planned the next steps. In October, we are planning to conduct a pilot test of the developed mental health program, which will involve educating tutors from the Medical Faculty in Maribor, who will then further educate medical students.

During the study visit, a significant amount of time was also dedicated to exchanging good practices in teaching mental health. When reviewing similar projects being implemented worldwide, we found that many of them are based on the Canadian document “Transitions”, just like ours. Our program is most similar to the Finnish model; however, in the EMPOWER FOR 21 project, we actively strive for cultural adaptation and ensuring that the materials remain accessible to the public for an extended period, possibly as an elective course, and so on.

During the planning and implementation, we have received valuable assistance and support from an expert in Norway and Canadian authors of the previously mentioned document with whom we have established contact. We also draw additional knowledge from various conferences and congresses that we attend during the project’s implementation.

After brainstorming, we had plenty of time to explore the beautiful city of Oslo :).

The same experts met again a few days later at the 23rd World Psychiatric Association (WPA) Congress in Vienna, which took place from September 28 to October 1. There, we presented our project and gathered feedback and comments from the participants in the discussion. During the congress, we learned about new guidelines, knowledge, and perspectives for action, emerging data, and analytical trends. The knowledge we acquired will be shared with our colleagues at the University Medical Centre Maribor and the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Maribor. These presented data will be beneficial in the phase of upgrading the mental health program that we are developing as part of the EMPOWER FOR 21 project.

The congress provided us with the opportunity to meet in person with the Canadian authors of the “Transitions” program (see the image below). We took advantage of this opportunity to further discuss ways to sustainably implement the knowledge we acquired.


For both visits, we can say that they brought us a lot of joy and were also helpful in advancing the project, which involves sustainable implementation, as well as in the professional development of our staff, who are dedicated to spreading the acquired knowledge further.


The EMPOWER FOR 21 Project Team

On February 16, 2023, the heads of projects financed under the Norwegian Financial Mechanism and the EEA Financial Mechanism met with representatives of the Norwegian Embassy in Budapest. The event was also attended by the head of the EMPOWER FOR 21 project, our dr. Monika Sobočan. The EMPOWER FOR 21 project is committed to empowering professionals in the 21st century by developing lifelong learning skills, employee well-being, and prevention and recognition of mental disorders. The project managers were able to share experiences with each other and make contacts that will certainly help to make the projects as successful as possible.

The Norwegian partner NTNU visited the other two Slovenian partners UKC Maribor and MF UM in Maribor at the end of January 2023. The purpose of the visit was to plan the work on the project (especially on leadership and communication work package). Partners exchanged good practices and got to know more of each other during this visit.

The study visit took place on January 25 and 26, 2023 at the University Medical Centre (UMC) Maribor. The first day was devoted mainly to the content of the communication and management work package. The Norwegian partner was presented with the results of the “Assessment of needs regarding the development of competences for healthcare professions” questionnaire, and based on this, the planning of upcoming management and communication workshops, was carried out through the conversation. The workshops are expected to take place from March to May 2023.
The second day of the study visit we used it to plan the work within the mental health care work package and to plan the curriculum for teachers.

On this occasion, the Norwegian partner also participated as an active speaker in a press conference on the topic of the presentation of the prefabricated facility of child and adolescent psychiatry clinics (more on: Facebook post UKC Maribor).