Why It’s Difficult To Be a Healthy Nurse

By Lucinda Cave, MSN, RN

A healthy nurse as defined by the ANA HealthyNurse™ program is one who actively focuses on creating and maintaining a balance and synergy of his or her health, safety, wellness and live to the fullest capacity physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. A HealthyNurse™ is a better role model, educator, and advocate – personally, for the family, for the community, for the work environment, and for the patient.

 

“Don’t be so selfish!”

 

“Think of how other people would feel!”

 

“Put yourself in someone else’s place!”

 

. . . Admonishments we’ve heard all our lives . . . and certainly, as nurses we’ve taken them to heart.  When a patient needs something, we do everything in our power to provide it.  When a work colleague asks for our help, without hesitation, we’ll change our plans, and accommodate.  And in our roles as parents, children of aging parents, friends, neighbors, volunteers, when asked to help, we do so.

 

And that’s why it can be so difficult to be a HealthyNurse.  In order to “live to the fullest capacity physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially, and spiritually,” we have to carve out space for our own needs.  Being a HealthyNurse takes time.  Working out.  Walking instead of driving.  Preparing nutritious meals at home instead of fast food.  Getting more sleep.  Relaxing.  Time we have to give ourselves.  Time we take from other people, duties and obligations.

 

And that’s hard.  How can you justify going to the gym when your daughter needs a ride to soccer practice, and Dad has a doctor appointment?  Or, how can you ‘take time for yourself’ when your family is hungry and you’re tired after a long day of work?  (And drive-through fast food is looking pretty good!).

 

No.  Realistically, it is impossible   to always make ‘healthy choices.’  So what does it mean, in 2017 – Year of the HealthyNurse – when we can’t make the health choices we’d like every time?

 

Perhaps it means we need to look at balance – balancing the needs of others with our own self-care needs, and tipping the balance in favor of our own self-care needs where we can.  Perhaps it means we need to re-prioritize, and begin to believe that doing so is not selfish.  As nurses, we must care for ourselves to be at our best caring for others.  And perhaps it means we negotiate more, to ‘find’ the time to engage in self-care pursuits – tradeoffs in what we need to do, what others can do for us or with us, and  determining what does not need to be done at all.

At the very least, given the busy, commitment-bound aspects of our lives, it means finding the small ways, making those little choices, to add healthy self-care behaviors to everything else we do.

Working in ways to get enough exercise is one example.  According to Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Americans receive health benefits by doing the following each week:

  • 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity

Or

  • 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity

Or

  • A combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity

And

  • Muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days

. . . And the beautiful thing?  Everything counts!  All activity adds up!  You can insert 10 minutes here, and 15 minutes there every week, to reach a healthy total.  It just takes a few substitutions.  Here are a few ideas from the website.

(Fitting Activity) into a busy schedule

  • If you can’t set aside one block of time, do short activities throughout the day, such as three 10-minute walks.
  • Create opportunities for activity. Park your car in the farthest space rather than the closest. If you ride the bus or train, get off one or two stops early and walk.
  • Walk or bike to work or to the store.
  • Play actively with your children.
  • Use stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
  • Take breaks at work to stretch or take quick walks, or do something active with coworkers at lunch.
  • Walk while you talk, if you’re using a cellphone or cordless phone.
  • Doing yard work or household chores counts as physical activity. Turn on some upbeat music to help you do chores faster and speed up your heart rate.

By making a few changes, it can be done.  We can make our own health a priority, because the health of our loved ones and our patients depend on it.  Perhaps the greatest benefit of the ANA HealthyNurse™ program is, in 2017, we can all begin to recognize it.