Nurses regularly consider the health and well-being of others before worrying about theirs.
Whether it’s because of the toll of long hours, the demands of shift work, or the stress inherent of the healthcare profession, the health of the average nurse is worse than that of the average American. In addition, hazards such as workplace violence and musculoskeletal injuries are contributing factors to poorer health.
Despite vast knowledge about prevention and wellness, nurses have a higher body mass index, sleep fewer hours, eat less healthful foods, experience much higher stress levels, and report putting the health, safety, and well-being of their patients before their own. The bottom line is that on major indicators of health, except for smoking, nurses are less healthy than the average population.
Role models for health
While everyone should be healthy, nurses especially should be viewed as exemplars of health, and serve as role models for their patients and the communities in which they serve. Studies have shown that when healthcare providers are healthy themselves, they are more likely to counsel patients about healthy behaviors and are viewed as more credible by patients.
As one of the most trusted professions, nurses have enormous potential to lead healthcare change as role models, advocates, and educators. Their well-being is intrinsically interwoven with the health of our nation.
Taking care of our caregivers
In response to these circumstances, Healthy Nurse, Health Nation™ (HNHN), an initiative of the ANA Enterprise, launched in May 2017 as an ongoing movement designed to transform the health of the nation by improving the health of nurses. More than 96,000 people and 491 partner organizations are taking action to improve nurses’ health in five key areas: physical activity, rest, nutrition, quality of life, and safety.
At the core of the HNHN strategy is providing a sense of community for nurses and the ability for them to network with colleagues from across the country. HNHN provides a web platform to inspire action, cultivate friendly competition, provide content and resources, and gather data. Additionally, nurses take a health assessment and can track their progress by repeating the survey periodically. Employers of nurses can play a key role in supporting nurses and other employees in the journey. We encourage all nurses to join the program and find tips and inspiration to improve their health and wellness. Information about the initiative can be found at hnhn.org.
Ernest Grant, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., President, American Nurses Association, [email protected]