The importance of a healthy lifestyle in nursing
Developing a healthy lifestyle does a world of good, and this is especially so in the nursing profession. Nursing is as demanding as it is rewarding and adopting proper lifestyle habits puts nurses in perfect shape for the rigors that come with the job. Unfortunately, nurses’ knowledge of the importance of healthy behavior does not always translate into self-care.
The scope of the profession is caring for ailing patients, so lifestyle choices not only affect nurses themselves. They also extend to the patients under their care. For instance, lack of exercise may cause back or joint pains that deter your physical capacity on the job. Poor health and depression can also lead to decreased productivity. And how would nurses convince patients of the benefits of healthy living without demonstrating those health-promoting behaviors themselves?
Self-care should be the first step to promoting such habits in patients. So it’s vital for nurses to have an exemplary and healthy lifestyle that promotes wellness. Find out more about healthy living as a nurse in this article. You’ll learn valuable tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and some common obstacles.
Tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle as a nurse
Here are some of the most effective health-promoting behaviors as a nurse:
Get enough sleep
Nursing as a profession can be very time-demanding. Even with student nurses, there’s a lot of pressure to pass exams, not to mention the long hours of coursework leading up to them. More often than not, you may be tempted to lose sleep to meet deadlines or take longer shifts.
However, you should endeavor to maintain regular sleep hygiene. Getting good sleep prevents you from being fatigued and sleepy on the job. With the delicate nature of nursing, there can be adverse effects to making mistakes while updating patients’ charts, keeping records, taking blood samples, etc. For nurses on duty through the night, getting enough sleep is crucial. More importantly, you should take adequate rest after such shifts.
Several studies have revealed a link between shortened sleep and obesity. Also, sleep disturbances (too much or too little sleep) are often connected to high mortality rates. So you should try to create time to get meaningful sleep as this will positively affect your overall health, work, and, ultimately, your patients. Over and beyond your work life as a nurse, there are several other benefits of healthy sleep.
Maintain healthy eating habits
This is one of the most fundamental ingredients for a healthy lifestyle. A familiar saying goes, “you are what you eat,” and pretty much sums up the importance of eating right.
As a nurse, you must be as healthy as possible, not just for yourself but also for the patients in your care. Healthy eating starts with a balanced diet. There’s been a lot of research on healthy eating, and most findings agree that too many processed and high-fat foods are detrimental to the body. You don’t necessarily have to cut out carbs or fatty foods altogether. You simply have to eat them in moderation while supplementing them with healthy proteins and other vitamin-rich foods.
A good idea would be to create a meal plan. You can spread out meals and perhaps start with fruits before the main dish. Then find alternative healthy snacks as opposed to cakes and doughnuts. Maintaining a healthy diet makes it easier to convince patients to adopt one.
Drink a lot of water
Human blood is about 90% water, and 60% of the body is also made up of water. This goes to show that it is essential to stay hydrated, and there are many benefits of drinking water, including:
- Joint lubrication –Most joints in the body contain cartilage, which has shock-absorbing abilities. These cartilages become weak when dehydrated, leading to joint pain.
- Delivery of oxygen throughout the body – Blood is the medium that carries oxygen to different parts of the body. Since the primary component of blood is water, staying hydrated helps deliver oxygen to vital organs.
- Food digestion – The digestive system is one of the many areas of the body that requires water to function properly. Drinking too little water can increase the acidity in the stomach, which inhibits digestion.
- Regulation of body temperature – During intense life-saving moments, it’s crucial to maintain internal body temperature and proper hydration helps kick in thermoregulation. Basically, water is trapped in the layers of your skin as sweat which then evaporates to cool the body.
Despite the tight daily schedule of a nurse, it’s beneficial to make time for exercise. Just like maintaining a balanced diet, an exercise routine will improve your health and reduce the chances of obesity. It doesn’t have to be high-intensity training or lifting dumbbells. Exercise is any physical activity that rejuvenates the muscles. You can go jogging in the mornings or keep it indoors with a few rounds on the treadmill or with a skipping rope.
Regular exercise can be very beneficial for nurses as it:
- Reduces anxiety when faced with patients in critical conditions
- Improves self-confidence when relating with patients and fellow medical practitioners
- Increases brain function to properly carry out the analysis and decision-making processes required on the job
- Improves immunity against exposure to infected patients and diseases in general
Maintain a good personal hygiene
Part of a nurse’s job is to help patients maintain good personal hygiene, especially those bedridden. However, before you can adequately put patients through good hygiene, you must carry out adequate self-care. Here are some aspects of hygiene that nurses must pay attention to:
- Oral hygiene– This is very important since nurses constantly communicate with patients and fellow professionals. Besides foul odor and discoloration, teeth can become weak, sensitive, or decayed if you don’t properly care for them. It is recommended to brush at least twice a day.
- Bathing and washing up– Taking your bath regularly and washing your hands often are essential. Before and after any activity that requires contact with patients or medication, you should wash or sanitize your hands. This is why medical personnel must scrub their hands thoroughly before going into the surgery room. Surgeons and nurse assistants often have to shower before and after seeing patients with contagious or potentially contagious diseases.
- Nail care– This might sound like a minor aspect of your hygiene, but it’s one of the most important. Nails are a common resting place for germs, and the longer your nails are, the more habitable they are. Some medical facilities don’t allow long nails at all. Whether mandated or not, you should endeavor to keep your nails tidy.
- Hair care– While nurses’ hair has no direct bearing on their duties at work, it affects their outlook. An overall tidy demeanor inspires trust in patients, and untidy hair often sends the wrong message.
Common obstacles to a healthy lifestyle and how to overcome them
Many nurses have these lifestyle changes on their to-do lists for so long that they’ve become forgotten items on their bucket lists. Perhaps you promised to stop eating beef at the start of the year but always postpone it to the following month. The only way to avoid procrastinating is by action. Why not start today instead of tomorrow?
These changes can be challenging to implement, but you can begin with small steps. If the goal is to become a vegetarian, you can start by cutting out beef. When you get to see the benefits of this slight change, it will naturally encourage you to do more. As for exercising, you can start the fitness journey with light jogging around your home and then increase it accordingly.
Note that this personal experience puts nurses in an excellent position to recommend treatment plans and healthy lifestyle steps to patients.
A tight schedule
It is common knowledge that nurses have some of the busiest schedules among professionals. Even with the current demand for nurses, many still clock in at work very early and clock out very late. In the case of night shifters, these nurses must stay awake all night to keep the medical facilities running effectively and spend hours after the shifts trying to catch up with their sleep cycle.
With such a busy schedule and barely enough time to rest, it might seem difficult to maintain a regular exercise routine. Cafeterias may be closed at night or on weekends, making it a challenge to access healthy foods.
Fortunately, there are still ways to work around it. For starters, you can take the stairs between floors rather than the elevator. You can pack healthy lunches and snacks from home rather than getting junk from the vending machine. With the increasing awareness about nurses’ health, institutional and social support solutions are now available. Several workplace interventions for nurses target physical activity, stress reduction, and diet.
Equally, one of the best ways to help ease tight schedules is through an MSN online program, like that which is available with Spring Arbor University, which has a curriculum built around a working professional lifestyle and means you can ease that work schedule whilst meeting the demand for nurses in healthcare.
The misconception that a healthy lifestyle is expensive
Going to the gym regularly might be costly, but nothing stops you from developing exercise routines that you can achieve from the comfort of your home. All the other elements of a healthy lifestyle described in earlier parts of this article also have cost-effective alternatives. In some cases, a healthy routine is cheaper. For instance, when you calculate the amount you spend on junk foods and the time to burn those calories through exercise, it’s easy to see that a proper diet saves stress and money.
Once you have moved your mind past the myth that living a healthy lifestyle is expensive, you have made the first step. Besides, even if you choose to spend money and time to stay healthy, it’s a worthwhile investment in the long run.
Nursing is a very delicate career path that requires the utmost professionalism and dedication. As a nurse, you are a medical standard and must be dedicated to effecting and promoting wellness. Achieving this goes beyond administering medications and advising treatment plans. It is also about adopting a healthy lifestyle that patients can emulate. Such healthy conduct will also empower you to perform your daily duties as a nurse.