As a nurse, you know the importance of staying healthy. But contradictorily, following through on your own health goals can be a challenge within the nursing profession — odd & extended hours, overwhelming stress, and emotion-draining events weigh on your physical and mental health.
You need a plan to stick with your health and wellness goals. And you need tips that understand the unique challenges nurses face every day. These 12 nursing tips on health will help you get there.
1. Eat Before Your Shift Starts
Much of health starts with the foods you choose. But let’s face it: when you’re creeping into your driveway after a 12-hour shift or pulling an all-nighter, you won’t necessarily be in the best mental state to make healthy food choices.
For most nurses, you’ll have more control before that shift starts and wears you out. So make it count.
Strive to eat your fruits, veggies, fiber, protein, healthy fats, and vital nutrients before your shift. Now, if things get hectic later on, you’ve had at least one good meal that day.
In most cases, this will be breakfast, regardless of the day your shift starts. Despite its importance, a study published in Science Daily gathered self-reported data from over 30,000 adults showing that approximately
15% of US adults skip breakfast.
Those who skipped breakfast also tended to snack more on less healthy foods.
This at least partially explains why another study published by PubMed (NIH.GOV) found that those who skip breakfast also tend to be less active, eat poorer overall diets, and have higher:
- Risk of metabolic disorders like diabetes
- BMI and larger waist circumference
2. Bring Lunch and Healthy Snacks to Work
Depending on your schedule, you may struggle with a healthy breakfast. Don’t give up on our first nursing tips on health if you’re not a breakfast eater. You can still offset that first meal-skipping by bringing a healthy lunch and snacks to work.
It stands to reason that the best nursing tips on health must be flexible. If one healthy strategy doesn’t work for you, focus on others that do.
3. Protect Your Sleep Time
A small study of nearly 400 nurses found that 80% reported getting good sleep. That’s great unless you’re the other 20%. Odd/long shifts, family responsibilities, and the need for a personal life make it hard for many nurses to get enough sleep.
And that can impact job performance and quality of life. Another study of 1500 nurses (NIH.gov
) found that the average nurse gets only 7 hours of sleep a night. And there was a direct correlation between the number of hours slept and metrics related to the quality of care delivered and patient safety. Less sleep = poorer scores.
That’s tangible evidence that sleep duration matters.
But work implications aside, sleep is vital for health, so any nursing tips on health can’t ignore its importance.
Sleep supports your natural ability to:
- Manage stress
- Stay alert and focused
- Regulate your mood, emotions, and mental health
- Repair your body
- Detoxify, including brain toxins, reducing your risk of developing Alzheimer’s
- Boost immunity
- Ward off many chronic health conditions
How Nurses Can Protect Sleep
Choose sleep-over activities, at least sometimes. Keep your schedule as consistent as possible so you can fall asleep faster when it’s time for bed.
Ask people to let you sleep. This one’s hard with kids. If possible, ask a friend, partner, or family member to take the kids somewhere for a few hours when you find you’re not getting enough sleep.
Stop caffeine mid-shift. Use other wake-up strategies like cardio, deep breathing, and/or exposing your eyes to bright or blue light.
A small double-blind, placebo-controlled, tracker-monitored study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (JCSM.org) found that moderate caffeine near bedtime, at three hours, and at six hours all impacted sleep to some extent. They concluded you should avoid substantial caffeine within six hours of bedtime to get a decent sleep.
And don’t forget: some people are more genetically sensitive to caffeine than others. If this is you, even six hours may not be enough. You may be caffeine sensitive if consuming the equivalent of a cup of coffee causes:
- Racing heart
- Jittery feeling
- Worsening anxiety
7. Keep Your Water Bottle At Your Nurse’s Station
At your most basic, water is life. You’re mostly made of the stuff. You can only go a couple of days without getting it in some form.
There’s no one perfect number of glasses of water for everyone, so listen to your body. Dry mouth, thirst, and dark urine are some of the first signs your water intake is inadequate.
It’s true that you can get most of your water from food — if you eat mostly whole foods. However, according to CDC.gov, most people in the U.S. eat way too much sodium and too little potassium, which increases water needs.
If you eat a salty snack, you dehydrate yourself fast. What’s more, you’ll feel tired, so you’re unable to give your patients your best. Keeping a water bottle with you or at least somewhere you can get to it easily can increase how much water you drink throughout the day.
8. Develop a Complementing Exercise Routine
Most nurses get a lot of physical activity. You may walk all day or do the significant heavy lifting. Then other nurses have desk jobs. That last one is a mental workout.
Chances are you’re getting some of the exercises you need on the job. That’s a good thing.
But nurses need a variety of types of exercise to stay healthy. If you’re wearing yourself out with one type of activity, you may not feel up to getting other kinds.
Unbalanced workouts (even if it’s your job) can increase your risk of injury, chronic pain, and diseases like arthritis, heart disease, or diabetes. But getting the physical activity you need helps you feel stronger and more capable of tackling what the day brings.
Proper exercise can also improve and maintain mental health. It helps your body and mind manage stress and, according to MayoClinic.org, studies show it can improve your mood and reduce anxious feelings.
Both on the job and during daily workouts, find opportunities to do the types of exercises you miss out on at work to get the most out of physical activity.
Strength Training Recommendations
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM.org)recommends:
- Enjoying your exercise routine 2-3 times a week
- Using free weights, bands, or equipment. For nurses, performing a sheet lift certainly counts!
- Perform 8-10 exercises that put exercise stress on multiple joints and major muscle groups
- Do 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions, resting as needed between each set, as long as you can maintain good form
- Progressively increasing weight every couple of weeks
Balance and Flexibility Recommendations
- Performing your stretch routine 2-3 times a week
- Targetting all major muscle-tendon groups
- Picking up a routine such as yoga, tai chi, or standard stretching
- Spending 60 seconds on each stretch
- Hold the stretch/pose for 15 -20 seconds and do it 3-4 times
For staying healthy, CDC.gov recommends that each week you get:
- 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (a fast walk), broken up over 3-5 days
- 75 minutes of vigorous activity (such as running or jogging)
9. Spend Time with Friends and Family
When someone has a “full-time plus” job, balancing home life and work can become a struggle. No one’s saying it’s easy. But taking a little time to plan and prioritize family and friends can make what felt like a full and overwhelming schedule a little more open.
And that’s important because people need people. Keeping these relationships strong makes life more engaging and enjoyable for both of you. You have a support system when you need it and people to enjoy life with too. You live a healthier, more fulfilling life.
Recognize that it’s not either-or. You don’t have to choose. When you find balance, you begin to see yourself as a whole person. You’ll notice how the skills you apply as a nurse make you a better parent, partner, caregiver, sibling, daughter, son, or friend. And vice versa.
10. Get Involved with Health Initiatives
Most workplaces and communities have some form of health initiative at any given time. Getting involved in these can go a long way toward staying healthy and building stronger co-worker and community relationships.
Health Initiative Ideas
Are you finding no health initiatives you want to join? Consider starting your own. Health initiatives can take many forms — large and small. Consider:
- Inviting a chef to teach cooking classes
- Hosting co-worker exercise sessions
- Health assessment and screenings
- Running a month-long campaign, promoting physical activity, healthy eating, stress management, mental health, whole body-mind health, etc.
- Encouraging health education like CPR and First Aid, Basic Life Support, and Bloodborne Pathogen. You can now take in-depth courses like these online and get certified, and group discounts are available.
11. Get Your Health Assessment
You knew nursing tips on health would include this one.
Most workplaces offer a voluntary health assessment these days. Take advantage of this free opportunity to get informed about whether you’re actually staying healthy or just thinking you are.
It’s easy to lie to yourself about physical and mental health because of the delayed effects of today’s choices.
What A Health Assessment Includes:
This will vary depending on the type of assessment. According to CDC.gov, a workplace health assessment assesses factors that may negatively or positively impact an employee’s health. These assessments should include measures of factors on each level:
They are often a combination of questionnaires, system-wide productivity, and absenteeism data, and individual, voluntary health screenings like:
- Blood pressure
- Lipid panel
- Waist circumference
An assessment provides you with some objective data you can use to identify shortfalls and get better at staying healthy.
If your workplace doesn’t offer an employee assessment with an individual health screening, be sure to ask your doctor about what kind you need at your next appointment. And, of course, your doctor will be able to do more in-depth health screenings appropriate for your age.
12. Invest in Continuing Education
What does education have to do with staying healthy? A lot actually. When you invest in your education, you feel more confident on the job. You spend less time worrying about what you don’t know. Instead, you’re doing what you do — even better.
You also work more effectively with your team or doctors and nurses in emergency situations. For example, studies (NIH.gov
) show that patient outcomes improve when Code Blue teams adhere to Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) algorithms.
Another larger study observed Code Blue teams in a hospital setting before they had the same ACLS training and after. After the team received the group training, the number of Code Blue patients who returned to spontaneous circulation (ROSC) nearly doubled.
Getting more vital healthcare training can save more patients. That’s not only good for the patients. It’s better for your mental health. There’s no easy way to talk about it. Losing a patient is emotionally draining. When you can take steps to save more lives, that’s a good thing.
Having the training to give your patients your best can also boost self-esteem and reduce job stress.
As a bonus, investing in your education also looks great on a resume and may open doors to better opportunities. It shows dedication to nursing and your patients.
But you don’t have to go back to school to develop new vital skills. These days, you can take excellent advanced healthcare certification courses 100% online. Most take around 8-12 hours, so you can complete them in your spare time and start applying those skills.
How to Get Advanced Healthcare Training Online & More Nursing Tips on Health
You can now get advanced healthcare training 100% online in your spare time and get certified in:
- Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
- Basic Life Support (BLS)
- CPR, AED, and First Aid
- Pediatric Advanced Cardiac Life Support
- Bloodborne Pathogens
These courses comply with OSHA guidelines and follow current ILCOR standards. They can also count toward the continuing medical education credits (CME) you need for your license. You get access to a combination of videos, text, algorithms, Megacodes, and study guides to thoroughly learn the information. Then take an online test to confirm your understanding.
You can view all of the course information for free, so why not start a course. Share your experience in the comments below or join in the Facebook discussion.