Background

Nurses today are under an unimaginable amount of pressure and many are trying to cope the best way they can. From the COVID-19 pandemic challenges, staffing shortages, and emerging traumatic stress responses, nurses are reporting severe burnout. Did you know that 10% of nurses are experiencing Substance Use Disorder (SUD) which is at the same rate as the general public (Monroe et al., 2013). This is a public safety concern as well as a personal issue that may include fear, suffering and addiction. Ineffective and punitive policies related to the management of SUD in nurses can endanger the public by making it hard for impaired nurses to reach out and ask for help. This problem exists in our nursing communities in and outside of InTheRooms (ITR), so what did we do about it?

Purpose

We wanted to create a purpose of outreach, connection, and peer to peer support specifically for nurses. We believe that the Nurses Helping Nurses meetings at InTheRooms helps to connect the suffering nurse to other nurses in recovery to draw strength, courage, and resources from. Nurses Helping Nurses is a peer support program where nurses suffering from addiction have a safe and caring experience through peer support with other nurses who share their experience, strength, and hope. The Minnesota based Nursing Peer Support Network (NPSN) partnered with nurses from Minnesota to create the first Nurses Helping Nurses meeting InTheRooms in January of 2019. In these meetings nurses with SUD can find each other, offer and receive peer support, and interact in a safe and caring way with the purpose of allowing for hope and healing. Nurses Helping Nurses is not an AA meeting, NA meeting, or Al-Anon meeting nor are they intended to be a substitute for those meetings. The purpose of peer support meetings is to offer support to other nurses in a way they can connect and relate from one peer to another.

Structure

The Nurses Helping Nurses meetings are held every Tuesday evening at 7pm CT (8pm ET) and are convened by a trained Minnesota based Registered Nurse in recovery. We started with just a few nurses in 2019 and have grown to about 100 nurses today who attend every week. If nurses are required to attend meetings as a part of their Health Professional Service Program, they can request meeting verification for the details of the meeting attendance to be emailed to them within 24 hours of the meeting. Nurses can join our online group InTheRooms by typing in the search, nurseshelpingnurses using no spaces. To learn more about this outreach or connect to a safe nurse leader in recovery, you can find Apeswill (April RN) or RuthRN (Ruth RN) here ITR.

Results

We frequently hear from nurses that attend Nurses Helping Nurses here at ITR that it is, “the best meeting they go to, it is a safe place for them, and that if it wasn’t for this meeting, they don’t know where they would be today.” As we continue to battle with the healthcare and societal challenges of stigma and shame with SUD, nurses are often driven further underground, afraid to speak up, and feeling hopeless and alone. Nurses Helping Nurses strives to reduce the stigma and shame by providing a safe and healing environment that encourages nurses to come out of hiding by speaking openly about their personal struggles with addiction and strengths of recovery. We believe that if we can support nurses through this journey of peer support and sharing experiences authentically, nurses will be able to identify with each other. This connection is powerful and is the beginning of a strong and healthy journey of recovery.

References

Monroe, T., & Kenaga, H. (2010). Don’t ask, don’t tell: Substance abuse and addiction among nurses. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 504-509.

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