If you haven’t yet been introduced to the “Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation” challenge, just give it time. The premise of the challenge (sponsored by the American Nurses Association) is simple: by improving the health and lifestyle of all nurses, those nurses can then set a healthy example for all around them. It’s a program designed to establish the nurse as a role model for personal health.
But those running the program have their work cut out for them.
You would think that everyone involved in the medical field would naturally gravitate towards healthy lifestyles. And in some ways, you’d be right. Nurses tend to be very proactive when it comes to things like getting flu shots (91%), using sunscreen (88%), or not smoking (94%). But when it comes to aspects of personal life and health that can be influenced by stress, nurses aren’t always a shining example.
Part of the challenge is the weight that nurses put on taking proper care of their patients. 68% of nurse respondents said that they put their patients’ wellbeing over their own health and safety. Many times, that means taking on longer hours, sleeping less, and settling for a diet that’s more convenient than healthy.
In fact, the study also found that the average body mass index (BMI) of nurses surveyed was over 27, a number firmly in the “overweight” column.
It all goes back to that 68% mentality. Nurses are natural caregivers and very hard workers. They work face to face with patients daily, and their drive and compassion is an incredible and unique combination that has defined the role of nurse for decades. All of which is wonderful, of course… unless it comes at the cost of personal and mental wellbeing.
Enter the goal of the “Healthy Nurses, Healthy Nation” challenge.
“Just think,” the ANA writes on their website, “if all 3.6 million registered nurses increase their personal wellness and support some of their family, community, co-workers, and patients to do the same, what a healthier world we would live in.”
The HNHN challenge (which you can register for here) attempts to focus on two things: improving the physical activity, sleep quality, nutrition, quality of life, and safety of nurses, and providing an online resource for nurses to connect with each other, educate themselves on life improvements, and cultivate “friendly competition”.
“Nurses are on the frontlines of health care, “writes Dr Pamela Cipriano,” and their well-being is critical to the health of the nation… If we support nurses in getting healthy, they will model these habits for their patients, family members, friends, colleagues and communities.”
Each month of the year, HNHN issues specific challenges to participating nurses. The challenges may center around the passive, like encouraging mindfulness or improving sleep. Some focus on safely, such as completing sharps training or pledging to stop distracted driving. And of course, some of the challenges are physical—such as running a 5k. This month’s challenge is simply called “Hydration”.
Whether you’re a nurse, studying to be a nurse, or simply considering starting nurse training, we hope you’ll take a look at the HNHN challenge and give some thought to taking part. You’re our front lines out there, and we need you in the best shape possible—mentally and physically.