NYC Health + Hospitals embraces 'well-being buddies'

NYC Health + Hospitals rolled out a new care delivery model in 2023 that entails designating one staff member on each unit as a "well-being buddy" tasked with checking in and supporting colleagues.

Every shift, a nurse or ancillary staff member volunteers for the role, which formalizes their responsibility to promote and protect the team's well-being. The check-ins can be simple questions asked during the workday — "Did you get a lunch break?" or "Do you need water or coffee?" — but they've led to significant improvements, according to Natalia Cineas, DNP, RN, senior vice president and chief nurse executive of NYC Health + Hospitals. 

"This peer-to-peer check in has been transformational," she told Becker's. "We all know you have to care for yourself before you care for others. Now that's really ingrained in the culture 24/7. We've seen nurses now singing happy birthday to patients — just the entire milieu has really changed because of the well-being buddy." 

The positive culture change is also reflected within the health system's patient experience and nurse satisfaction scores, both of which increased this year, according to Dr. Cineas.

NYC Health + Hospitals deployed well-being buddies in six hospitals in 2023, with five more to go in 2024. Dr. Cineas said staff members have embraced the program with open arms. 

"When you have change management, you never know how it's going to go … but we've been really pleased as to how staff have really just taken on this new initiative that we designed and they've made it their own," she said. "It's been pretty phenomenal."

The effort is separate from the New York City-based health system's Helping Healers Heal program, which is designed for staff members who may need more assistance to cope with workplace stress or anxiety. The peer-led employee wellness program offers peer-to-peer support, mental health expertise and team-debriefing sessions to staff members after traumatic events.

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