Published in NJ.com

Adelisa Perez, BSN, RN, does not stop being a nurse when she leaves Riverview Medical Center, the Red Bank hospital where she works with heart patients.

Perez believes the nursing profession also calls her to promote wellness in the communities around her. “Nurses can bring a unique aspect to wellness initiatives. We have a wealth of experience and knowledge that can make a difference in our towns and cities,” she said.

The New Jersey Action Coalition (NJAC) has a model of matching volunteer nurses such as Perez with community organizations in New Jersey. A strong example is NJAC joining forces with the New Jersey Healthcare Quality Institute’s Mayors Wellness Campaign (MWC).

Since the fall of 2017, volunteer nurses have engaged in the MWC’s community projects to improve the health and well-being of residents. The partnership has enabled the Quality Institute to expand its community programming into more counties while adding valuable nursing expertise to the MWC’s programs.

Perez brings her perspective as a nurse to theMWC’s Conversation of Your Life (COYL), a program that catalyzes community discussion around end-of-life care issues, such as advance care planning. Recently, Perez spoke at a COYL community meeting at the Lawrenceville Library, a gathering that began with a screening of “The Bucket List,” a movie about two cantankerous elderly men and their approach to serious illness.

“After the movie, people asked me specific questions: ‘What’s the difference between hospice and palliative care?’ ‘How is an advance directive different from a Practitioner Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) document?’ ” she said. Perez, 31, received her BSN from Kean University and now is enrolled in the Nursing Leadership program at Rutgers School of Nursing.

Jeffrey Anderson, BSN, RN, said nurses could find traditional volunteer opportunities, such as volunteering for local soup kitchens and local organizations. Anderson said in his experiences, when nurses volunteer their time using their professional nursing skills, there was more satisfaction and value to their time volunteering. For this reason, Anderson became the Monmouth County NJAC Coach who helps to recruit and connect nurse volunteers to community initiatives. He called Conversation of Your Life a particularly successful connection of community-based programs working with nurse volunteers.