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Why Peer Support for Nurses Matters

Two nurses supporting each other

Sponsored by Children's National Hospital.

The 2024 Nurse Salary and Work-Life Report revealed that feeling overwhelmed, burnout, and prolonged stress were the top three aspects nurses experienced most in the past two years. With the increasing prevalence of these conditions, peer support for nurses becomes even more necessary.

While there are both powerful and joyous moments in our jobs as nurses, it’s no secret that we face a unique set of challenges and situations. These experiences are what help us relate to and connect with others within our profession. 

Having strong relationships in place is both an important and beneficial aspect of our growing nursing community. Not only do these relationships allow us to help one another emotionally, but they allow us to celebrate each other through different stages of our lives and careers. 

But what does it mean to have peer support in nursing, and why do these relationships matter?

Developing professionally

One valuable aspect of being a nurse is the numerous opportunities we have to nurture our professional development. And that, in part, is accomplished by the supportive relationships we acquire on our career journeys. 

Whether mentorships, preceptorships, or continuing education, experiences like these allow us to learn and grow even further in our careers simply by connecting with our peers. We network. We share knowledge. We provide guidance and insights. We gain new perspectives. 

When you get down to it, peer support among nurses is at the core of “lifelong learning.” At any stage of our career or at any point in our lives, we can learn from a nurse we know. 

Let’s talk about mentorships for a moment. For some, there’s an assumption that mentorships can only benefit younger or newer nurses. And while mentorships certainly help newer nurses flourish, you can have a mentor at any time in your career. If you’re switching specialties, moving across the country, or entering a leadership role, mentorships can challenge your perspective, refine your skills, and give you clarity — all from the relationship you develop with your mentor.

Connecting on a professional level not only helps us learn, but it can also open doors to new career opportunities. Even if it's learning about a new job opening from a coworker, finding a mentor, or seeking career guidance from a nurse friend, strong and encouraging peer support can contribute to the success you have as a nurse.

A sense of belonging 

A sense of belonging within nursing can be a make-it-or-break-it situation for some, especially new nurses. This feeling is a fundamental need for most people, and for nurses, this helps us feel accepted, understood, and valued.

Suppose you’re a new graduate nurse or a nurse moving into a new work environment, it can feel overwhelming and downright scary to venture into uncharted territory. And feeling as if you’re navigating these situations on your own can make you question everything you’re doing. But you’re not alone. We have all been there at one point or another in our careers, and having other nurses connect and relate to what you’re going through can make all the difference.

A strong support system defines what belongingness actually is. It’s shared experiences, shared challenges, and shared victories. It’s a nurse community that understands your goals, builds your resilience, shares your stress, and cheers you on. 

Emotional support

Being a nurse is very involved. We wear many different hats and juggle tasks from patient care to charting, all within the confines of our shifts. So it’s an understatement to say nursing can be emotionally taxing. 

That’s why having a community of peers who recognize the emotional demands of the profession is so important. The empathy and support we receive from these professional relationships can be transformative for our mental health and well-being. In fact, research shows that supportive relationships help prevent burnout and compassion fatigue among nurses. Data like this shows the significant effect personal relationships have on professional lives. 

As nurses, we’re giving so much of ourselves to our patients and our employers. And especially at work, it’s vital that we make our mental health a priority. And one way we can achieve that is through building these supportive networks. 

A text conversation, a phone call, an online community, or a debriefing, seeking out emotional support when you need it from someone who has walked in your shoes can have a positive ripple effect in your life. 

I remember one time when I was working at a hospital in Detroit, Michigan, and I was caring for one of my patients after the shift change was over. My team and I had to administer blood, and the patient wasn't doing well. 

Multiple colleagues jumped in to help me with the task so I could support my patient. They even followed up with me after work to make sure I was OK and to tell me what a good job I had done.

This meant everything to me and helped me feel not alone. This type of peer support was what I needed at that moment. We all know how badly we want to leave work after a 12-hour shift, so to have this support from other nurses meant so much.

Ultimately, nursing is a team effort, and having adequate peer support is necessary for us to thrive. By nurturing these relationships, we can find the encouragement, guidance, and community we need to navigate the challenges of our profession and provide quality care for patients. 

Children's National Hospital, based in Washington, D.C., is ranked #5 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and has been attained Magnet® recognition three times. Explore our nursing career information and learn how you can make Children’s National the place you grow and thrive in your career.