1. Moore, Martie L. RN, MAOM, CPHQ

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Q: As a nurse, I feel I should be a role model for patients, yet I feel fatigued most of the time, and I know I don't eat right. How can I be a role model for patients?


A: You may be asking your patients about their sleep patterns, diet, and exercise, but when was the last time you did a checkup on your own habits? Nurses today are facing mountainous demands on their physical and mental health, and an overwhelming majority of nurses do not properly care for themselves. This is especially problematic when we consider the demands-both physical and emotional-that define the nursing profession. No matter what arena you practice in, it is critical that your own health comes to the forefront. Taking care of yourself first-however counterintuitive that may seem-will help you build your resilience and enable you to provide the best care.


The American Nurses Association (ANA) defines a healthy nurse as one who actively focuses on creating and maintaining a balance and synergy of physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, personal, and professional well-being. Poor health in nurses can result in problems such as impaired judgment, inability to perform physical duties, sleepiness, lack of focus, weight gain, or weight loss. These are serious problems. According to a University of Maryland School of Nursing study, approximately 55% of 2,103 female nurse respondents were either overweight or obese, which affects everything from musculoskeletal and heart health to diabetes risk and sleep. Fatigue can also lead to a series of ill effects on nurse health, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and gastrointestinal problems. This means that the state of your health directly impacts your ability to provide care to others.


I've been a nurse for 30-plus years. I know how difficult it is to shift your mindset into caring for yourself. But I'm reminded each time I travel that we are told to put our own oxygen masks first before helping others. You cannot provide good care to others if you are suffering yourself.


Medline has been collaborating with the ANA to help bring greater awareness to the importance of nurse health and offer simple steps for improvement. Start by taking the ANA HealthyNurse Health Risk Appraisal ( Completely HIPAA-compliant, it allows ANA to assess the state of nurses' health, safety, and wellness, and develop more resources to promote healthy behaviors and create healthier work environments. It will help you identify your own risk factors, compare your results to ideal standards and national averages, and access resources through a web wellness portal. Next, inventory your environment to ensure you have the right tools to perform your duties safely as well as effectively. Your leadership has a responsibility to provide tools and solutions that keep you and your patients safe; from products that will promote skin health after constant hand-washing, to lifts and other devices that protect your back from potentially debilitating injury while moving patients. You have the right and responsibility to advocate for practices that keep you and your patients safe.


Small actions can also have a big impact. With the rise in popularity of fitness and sleep trackers, consider using one to monitor your movement and sleep patterns. Seeing just how much-or how little-sleep you actually get is a way to encourage better sleep habits. Sometimes shift schedules mean you don't get to pause for meals. Make a conscious effort to pack healthier snacks or bag lunches to cut down on visits to vending machines or fast food that is not doing your body many favors. There are approximately 3.6 million nurses in the United States. Just think of the change we can affect not only for ourselves, but for those we care for if we commit to caring for ourselves first.