February 01, 2012 | | Comments 1
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Does being a nurse make you fat?

Is being a nurse bad for your health? A new survey indicates that this might be the case, and offers managers an opportunity to help staff be healthier and take care of themselves so they can take better care of patients in return.

The survey of more than 2,100 female nurses, conducted by the University of Maryland’s School of Nursing, revealed that 55% of participants were obese. The study used body mass index (BMI) as the primary measure for obesity. The nurses who participated in the survey indicated factors such as jobs stress, poor sleep habits, and long, irregular work hours as the primary causes for their excess weight.

This study comes among other recent reports that overweight physicians are less likely to advise obese patients about the benefits of dieting and exercising to lose weight and improve their health. A common thread among these studies is that physicians and nurses who are at an unhealthy weight are unable to provide the highest quality of care for patients, because they are not caring for themselves and feel they cannot lead by example.

Kihye Han, author of the University of Maryland study, recommended better scheduling methods to allow nurses to practice good sleep habits, and noted that an increase in the availability of healthy food could also make a positive impact. An experiment conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital found that simply labeling hospital cafeteria items with red, yellow, and green stickers to distinguish healthier choice from less healthy options led to an increase in healthier foods and beverages. Busy nurses and physicians could quickly determine the best foods based on the label.

None of the resources referenced above explores another option for encouraging nurses to make healthier choices: nurse leaders. Nurses who are struggling with getting adequate sleep or maintaining a nutritious diet could benefit from the advice, guidance, and support of not only staff leaders but also other nurses in similar situations. Providing resources and healthier options for staff nurses would not only benefit their overall health, but could also lead to improvements in patient care quality.

We want to hear from you! Have you encountered issues with sleeping and eating habits among your unit’s nurses? Does your facility offer flexible scheduling and more nutritious food options to encourage healthier lifestyles? Let us know in the comments section.


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Filed Under: Hot topics

About the Author: Katrina Gravel is an editor for the Education division of HCPro.

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