Nurse2Nurse: New Initiative Delivers Peer Support to N.J. Nurses

October 11, 2021 11:04 AM EDT

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PRINCETON, N.J., Oct. 11, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- With nearly two-thirds of the nation's nurses reporting that they feel overwhelmed amid COVID-19, Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care (RUBHC) and the New Jersey Nursing Initiative (NJNI) have created a new peer support resource for nurses, by nurses.

Nurse2Nurse provides one-on-one peer support, virtual support groups, wellness webinars and a host of additional resources via its website After a soft launch this summer, Nurse2Nurse now also offers a toll-free number, 844-687-7301, staffed by active and retired nurses Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

"For 18 months and counting, New Jersey nurses have endured unprecedented stressors due to the COVID pandemic," said NJNI Director Susan W. Salmond, RN, executive vice dean and professor of the Rutgers School of Nursing. "In order to care for others, nurses must heed their own emotional health. Mental health matters. This emotional resiliency is required for self-compassion, compassion for peers and compassion for the patients that we take care of. Our hope, through the Nurse2Nurse helpline, is to provide empathic support to nurses from someone who has walked in their shoes."

Nurse2Nurse is built on a model developed by the Rutgers University National Center for Peer Support, which has successfully provided crisis counseling, peer support and disaster response support to other groups including law enforcement officers and veterans. It uses a holistic approach that spans physical and mental wellness, but also other dimensions of health including occupational, spiritual and social needs.

"Peer support is non-judgmental," said Matthew Buragina, supervising mental health specialist at RUBHC. "The shared experience allows participants in peer support to gain measurable benefits including increased self-esteem and confidence, a greater sense of control, improved self-care and an increased sense of hope. Peer services have provided a great support for many populations and we are excited to now provide these services for all New Jersey nurses."

Nurses who provide peer support are RUBHC employees who have undergone training in reciprocal peer support and wellness principles. The program is looking to hire more nurses to staff the helpline.

Nurse2Nurse is made possible thanks to $441,000 in funding from the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund. NJNI, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a collaborative program of the New Jersey Hospital Association, also supported funding of $250,000 for the Nurse2Nurse initiative.

The need is great, according to the experts behind Nurse2Nurse. In a December 2020 survey of more than 12,000 nurses across the country, the American Nurses Foundation found that 72 percent report being exhausted amid the pandemic, 64 percent feel overwhelmed, and 57 percent report feelings of anxiety or irritability. Health impacts identified by nurses included difficulty sleeping, overeating and alcohol use.

"As nurses, it can be hard to share what's going on with us, so we keep it on the inside," said Barbara Brilliantine, RN, one of the Nurse2Nurse peer counselors. "Nurse2Nurse is a sacred space to receive the gifts of connection and wellness that every nursing hero deserves."

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SOURCE New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA)

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