Nurse Wellness: Focusing on Your Own Health and Safety

American Sentinel is supporting the ANA’s designation of 2017 as the “Year of the Healthy Nurse” with a new, four-part series about Nurse Wellness that will unfold over the next month. Read the other parts of this series here. This is part three.

In case you’ve missed it, the ANA’s Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation initiative is a reminder for nurses to take care of themselves, in order to better care for their patients, as well as contribute to overall public health. When nurses are healthy, well rested, and safe on the job, they have more life- and job-satisfaction overall—which, in turn, has an impact on patient outcomes and quality of care. It’s a strange paradox that nurses are less healthy than the average adult. Research shows they are more likely than the national average to be overweight, get insufficient amounts of sleep, use tobacco, and suffer workplace injuries. Since nurses are essential to the overall healthcare system, their own well-being becomes the foundation to the health of the entire nation. A healthy nurse is a stronger role model, patient educator, and advocate.

If you’ve neglected aspects of your own physical health or safety, now is the time to address it. The ANA has also launched its “Healthy Nurse, Healthy NationTM Grand Challenge (HNHN GC). The challenge focuses on five fundamental indicators of wellness sleep, nutrition, exercise, safety, and quality of life. You can join the challenge online, and we urge you to do so!

Some areas to reflect on and consider addressing:

  • Tobacco cessation. If you’re a nurse who smokes or uses tobacco products and would like to quit, there is no time like the present! You may have tried before and been unsuccessful. According to the American Lung Association, it usually takes several attempts to shake the habit.
  • Substance use. If you’re using alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs in a damaging way, now is the time to get help.
  • Healthy weight. You don’t have to adopt a strict diet or exercise program to move toward a healthier weight, as measured by BMI. Instead, take small steps toward a healthier lifestyle. Cut back on sweets, perhaps by replacing one sugary drink per day with sparkling water. Practice portion control and cut back on emotional eating or snacking. Move more – offer to walk a neighbor’s dog or start parking at the far end of the lot.
  • Injury prevention. Research shows that nurses experience more musculoskeletal problems than the population at large. Many of these are injuries that result from moving patients. In order to establish a safe environment for nurses and patients, the ANA supports actions and policies that eliminate manual patient handling. A workplace culture of safety is imperative to nurses’ health.
  • Sleep. Research shows that nurses who change shifts or work the night shift long term often don’t get the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep per 24-hour period. The resulting fatigue can not only lead to health issues, but can decrease alertness, impair judgment, and put patients at risk. The ANA recommends that all nurses take steps to improve sleep quality.
  • Exercise. When you’re on your feet all day, it can be hard to find the motivation to visit the gym. Research shows that most nurses don’t get the recommended minimum of muscle-building exercise. If this is you, try to take small steps toward a healthier exercise regimen.
  • Healthy habits. If you’re neglecting these, now is the time to make a conscious effort to improve. Use sunscreen, wear a bicycle helmet, buckle up while driving, and be a good role model for your family and neighbors.

Do you see yourself as a healthy nurse? Our wellness series was conceived to help nurses actively focus on balancing all aspects of well-being: physical, mental, emotional, social, personal, spiritual, intellectual, and professional. Please join us for next week’s article!