NJ-NEW Helps Nurses Struggling with Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

New Jersey’s 172,000-member nursing workforce faces ongoing anxiety, depression, job-induced stress, burnout, and turnover. And the situation has been substantially aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the emergence of COVID-19, the day-to-day demands of nursing have been both illuminated and exacerbated,” says Jennifer Polakowski, assistant director of the New Jersey Nursing and Emotional Well-Being Institute (NJ-NEW). “Nurses were challenged with unrealistic workloads; insufficient resources and protective equipment; risk of infection; stigma directed at healthcare workers; and the mental, emotional, and moral burdens of caring for patients in the face of a new, unpredictable disease. All of this has left an imprint on nursing and nurses. The need to address nurses’ emotional well-being and provide interventions to effectively manage stress and build resilience are key priorities.”

NJ-NEW is supporting nurses by providing statewide, research-based programming and direct support to address the emotional well-being of nurses, both on an individual and organizational level. NJ-NEW has positioned itself as the statewide lead and repository of programming, services, and resources targeting emotional well-being and resiliency. It provides the following statewide interventions to address the multiple emotional challenges that nurses face:

  • Virtual Schwartz Rounds – safe, online spaces where nurses can share their stories and concerns.
  • Stress First Aid Train the Trainer, an evidenced-based, peer-support model organizations can implement to provide staff with skills to prevent and respond to stress.
  • Future of Nursing, a report released by the National Academy of Nursing that includes a series of key recommendations to address nurses’ health and well-being. NJ-NEW will serve as the lead organization for coordination related to workplace activities.
  • Nurse2Nurse, a confidential, peer-support helpline with which NJ-NEW is partnering.
  • NJ-NEW Well-Being Hub, a statewide, learning collaborative and resource center serving individuals and health care organizations.

“We’re doing a lot, because there’s a great deal that needs to be done,” Polakowski adds. “As a whole, these programs will provide crucial opportunities to learn, implement, and model best practices for promoting a resilient, emotionally healthy nursing workforce.”

Polakowski also notes that the healthcare industry in general – and nursing in particular – reacted with care, compassion, and innovation to the mentioned stresses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual rounding tools were developed and deployed that enabled providers to connect with their patients from work or home, via video; proning teams (multi-disciplinary team of providers that turns a patient experiencing respiratory distress from their back onto their stomach); new approaches to medication administration; tracing and testing; and much more.

NJ-NEW was launched in January 2022 with a one-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The goal was to promote a resilient nursing workforce to respond to the critical emotional health needs of nurses in New Jersey. NJ-NEW is advancing this goal to promote a resilient nursing workforce with a two-pronged approach. First is providing statewide, evidence-based programming and support to meet the emotional well-being needs of nurses on an individual and organizational level. Second is being a statewide lead for a repository of programming, services, and resources targeting emotional well-being and resiliency. NJ-New is a project of the New Jersey Collaborating Center for Nursing, which is housed at Rutgers University School of Nursing in Newark.

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