7 Healthy Lifestyle Changes That Nurses Can Make
By Megan Murdock Krischke, contributor
Staff and travel nurses alike often have the responsibility of teaching patients how to care for themselves. Their teaching is not only for short-term needs such as giving post-operative instructions or answering questions about medications, but may cover long-term lifestyle changes required to manage and prevent chronic diseases.
Beth Battaglino, RN, president and CEO of HealthyWomen.org, encourages all nurses to practice the healthy living guidelines they teach patients.
“As nurses, we need to be in good health,” she stated. “I’m not saying you have to be a super athlete, but we need to be in good shape both mentally and physically to take on the care of our patients. We are working long hours, with skeleton staffing, and the patient workload is only going to increase.”
As a practicing nurse in maternal–fetal medicine and a mother of young children, Battaglino understands the challenges nurses face in making healthy choices.
“In addition to their nursing work, most nurses are also caring for a family, so after a 12-hour shift, there are still household responsibilities to take care of. There is a lot of juggling,” said Battaglino. “Eating well is a significant challenge because nurses often feel they don’t have time to take their breaks and end up grabbing candy and doughnuts out of the break room.”
But changes can be made.
“You don’t have to make a marathon your goal,” she remarked. “Just take it a step at a time.”
Battaglino recommends nurses looking to improve their health start with the following steps:
1. Bring your own meals and snacks to work. “Personally I like to keep nuts in my car to eat on my way home so I don’t walk in the door ravenous at the end of the day,” Battaglino said.
2. Stay well hydrated, especially during long shifts. Proper hydration can improve your physical and mental stamina at work. And, in the summer heat, extra care is needed to avoid dehydration.
3. Take the stairs for an extra cardiovascular boost. Consider wearing a pedometer to track your steps each day. (RELATED: The 4-Mile Shift: Why Nurses Walk So Much.)
4. Get enough sleep. “Don’t take too many shifts in a row. Think through what schedule will really work for you and your family,” she recommended.
5. Fit in workouts on your days off work. “Working out relieves stress, keeps you strong, works to prevent heart disease and osteoporosis, improves sleep, increases your energy and can increase confidence,” Battaglino noted.
TravelNursing.com blogger Aaron Moore, MSN, RN-BC, points out that jogging is a very portable activity for travel nurses, and many gyms have affiliates all across the country. Travel nurse housing will often have a gym on site, as well.
6. Eat more seafood. “I recommend eating two to three servings of seafood a week. Many of us have relied on supplements for our nutrients, but it is so much better to gain our nutrients from our food,” Battaglino stated. “A diet high in seafood is good for your brain, as well as your heart.”
7. Find someone to keep you accountable. “I work out with a group of moms on the weekends,” Battaglino continued. “Creating plans with a friend, or group of friends, makes you show up because there are only so many excuses you can use. At the end of a stressful week it is great to have a little therapy session, and by the time we are done with our run our problems are solved,” she laughed.
Moore agrees that workouts work better with others: “Finding someone to exercise with you and hold you accountable can really help, and it’s a great way to meet new people while on travel nurse assignments.”
“As you take these steps, you will feel better about yourself, you will have more energy at work, and you will be better able to manage your stress--as a nurse you will have hit the trifecta,” Battaglino encouraged. “Then, as you are telling a patient, ‘You need to do X, Y and Z,’ they will see a fit nurse. People can sense that you are healthy.”
While you are in the process of improving your health, Battaglino suggests sharing that information with patients. If you are instructing a patient to improve their diet, let them know that you are working to improve your diet and that you know change is hard. Share the steps you are taking, the challenges you’ve encountered and how you have overcome them.
Above all, Battaglino emphasizes the importance of self-care for nurses, saying, “When we take care of ourselves first, we are better able to care for others.”
Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation – American Nurses Association
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Originally published on NurseZone.com.
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