Nurses play a lead role in helping patients get and stay healthy. But they also are being encouraged to set a good example for patients by becoming healthier themselves.
From now until January, nurses across the U.S. should expect to hear more about the American Nurses Association’s Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation Grand Challenge. Nurses are being encouraged to join in, beginning with a comprehensive health risk appraisal.
A panel of nursing leaders from Magnet facilities offered tips to fellow nurses attending the American Nurses Credential Center’s National Magnet Conference in October in Orlando to help them engage with this healthy nurse initiative once they’re back home. Presenters included Maureen White, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, chief nurse executive and senior vice president at Northwell Health in New York City; Patricia Reid Ponte, DNSc, RN, FAAN, senior vice president for patient care services and CNO at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston; Jaime Dawson, MPH, program director, Department of Nursing Practice and Work Environment for the American Nurses Association in Silver Spring, Md.; and Pat Patton, MSN, RN, FCN, vice president for nursing operations at Catholic Health Initiatives in Englewood, Colo.
WELCOME THE CHALLENGE
White and Ponte said nurses historically have been all too ready to accept unhealthy habits in their own lifestyles.
“We’ve lulled ourselves into believing we should give everything we have to help others be healthy, so we’re going to be unhealthy; that this is the way it needs to be,” White said.
Instead, she said nurses and hospital administrators should embrace the belief that “caring for patients begins with caring for ourselves and our people.”
ACCEPT THE SPOTLIGHT
Nurses work on the front lines of healthcare, interacting with patients in many different settings.
So, White and Ponte said, they should not be surprised to learn their patients, friends, neighbors and others around them are looking to them to see what a healthy lifestyle looks like. Nurses should seize the opportunity to model various aspects of the healthy nurse challenge, including eating healthier foods, wearing helmets when bicycling, wearing sunscreen and becoming more active outside of work, according to White and Ponte.
There are about 3.6 million nurses in the U.S., according to the ANA website.
“If 3 million of us do the things we need to do to get healthy, it can only inspire and influence others,” Ponte said.
While much of the focus of wellness often falls on the body, Ponte said, for nurses, minding the health of their psyche can be just as important.
At Dana-Farber, she said leadership has placed an emphasis on helping nurses engage through mindfulness — the practice of living in the moment, and accepting and properly processing feelings and thoughts to reduce stress and maintain order. While some may need more help attaining physical health, others may need instruction in mindfulness and similar techniques, Ponte said.
She said this can be particularly key for oncology nurses and others who routinely work with dying patients.
Ponte and White said hospitals and other healthcare facilities should engage with the healthy nurse challenge by developing programs to fit the needs and goals of their own facilities and workplace culture, to encourage nurses to achieve their goals together. They said that will likely look different at various facilities.
In their organizations, White and Ponte said the commitment to encourage wellness has prompted certain initiatives. They include programs to help nurses walk more beyond their regular work shifts, to find serenity in healing gardens, to meditate, to lose weight and monitor body mass, to quit smoking, to eat healthier and better track their overall health.
At Northwell, White said healthy employee initiatives include mapping out hospital buildings to help calculate the number of steps and calories burned when walking certain distances, partnering with local chefs to create easy and healthy meal plans and developing an exercise challenge. •
Jonathan Bilyk, a freelance writer, contributed to the writing and research of this article.