As New Jersey’s Nurses Struggle with Stress, NJ-NEW Unveils Statewide Programs

 In Nurses Weekly

Female nurse suffering from headache

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 NJ-NEW Assistant Director Jennifer Polakowski, MPA. “Nurses were challenged with unrealistic workloads; insufficient resources and protective equipment; risk of infection; stigma directed at health care 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.”

To address the burdens of COVID, the nursing sector responded to protect its own. Polakowski notes that the healthcare industry in general – and nursing in particular – reacted with care, compassion, and innovation as it developed and deployed virtual rounding tools 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 further supports 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.”


The New Jersey Nursing and Emotional Well-Being Institute (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, 180 University Avenue, Newark, NJ.

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