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Nurses, it’s heart month, but are you healthy?

February 9th, 2011 by – Marijke Durning

So much is being written these days about the declining state of health among Americans. The obesity rate is sky rocketing, children are developing lifestyle-related diseases like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, and there are dire predictions that this generation of children will become the first one to have a shorter predicted lifespan than that of the generation before them.

And what of the nurses? For sure, we are doing what we can to try to get our patients to be healthy. We preach healthy diets, increasing exercise and eliminating bad habits, like smoking. But many of us don’t practice what we preach. We don’t eat properly, abuse our body, don’t exercise and many smoke. If nurses behave that way, how can they expect their patients to even consider changing their lifestyles?

Smoking

Although there still are nurses who smoke, the number has dropped significantly. According to an article on Tobbacco.org, smoking among nurses has dropped from 33.2 percent in 1976 to 8.4 percent in 2003. Now we just need to get it down even more.

The problem is, as nurses do continue to smoke, many will develop the smoking-related diseases that plague the country. And, by going out to smoke outside the hospital at break time, they are projecting an image of “do what I say, not as I do,” to the outside world.

Obesity

Unfortunately, the number of obese and overweight nurses aren’t as good as the dropping numbers of smokers. A study that was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners in 2008 found disturbing results from a self-reported survey among registered nurses. While the vast majority of nurses who responded said they had to counsel patients on lifestyle issues, 22 percent of the nurses were obese themselves and 32 percent considered themselves to be overweight. Breaking down this number even further, of the nurses who specifically counseled obese patients on losing weight, 18 percent were themselves obese and 34 percent overweight.

These numbers should be surprising, considering the role that nurses play in our society, but they’re not shocking. Not at all. Nurses are under the same stresses as the rest of society – they do shift work, they have stressful jobs, they juggle too many things that they don’t have enough time for. Or, at least, these are some of the excuses that people use.

Nurses don’t have to be “better” than their patients – but they are the public eye of health care. But even more than that, how can a nurse live a healthy life if she doesn’t choose a healthier lifestyle?

Nursing is a demanding job – there’s no doubt about that. So wouldn’t it make more sense for nurses to make the effort to take care of themselves? After all, don’t we tell family of patients to rest and take care of themselves or they won’t be any help to the patient?

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Posted in Work-Life Balance

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