The results are in!

Over 6000 nurses can’t be wrong

A colleague (Dr. Jennifer Barr) and I surveyed over 6000 Australian nurses and this revealed that the number one issue that impacts our health is stress (no surprise there) with the usual culprits contributing to high levels of stress;

·        Bullying

·        Shift work/rostering

·        Workload

·        Health issues

·        Lack of support

·        Pay/conditions

·        Upper Management (unresponsive to issues such as workload, roster, bullying, study leave)

·        Lack of healthly options at work (healthy food, access to gym/physical activity, stress management programs)

·        Car parking (many nurses described having to park 30 minutes’ walk away or having to go and move their car every 2-3 hours because of restricted parking!) These are huge issues for nurses who finish or start work during their evening or night shift.

There is no easy answer to address these work-related issues (if there was an easy answer, then we would have already done it). The survey shows that many nurses are aware of our own health issues (obesity, hypertension, back and knee issues, gastric ulcers, insomnia, stress, depression, risk of developing chronic diseases etc.) – however, these nurses also stated that they were too tired/stressed to change and that they know that they “should” do something but just couldn’t do what was needed! Meanwhile, we continue to eat unhealthy food, drink too much alcohol, smoke, participate in minimal physical activity and exhibit high stress levels.

This raises an interesting conundrum – nurses are unhealthy, nurses know WHAT to do about it but do not do what it takes to really address our own health issues.

As nurses, we face the same issues that the rest of society does but we feel extra pressure to address these because of our role (supporting patients in our health journey) and role modelling (feeling that we “should” get our own health issues sorted before telling our patients what to do).

While researchers and health promotion programs continue to remind us of the data and evidence supporting the need to “get healthy” and to “stop smoking, cut back on alcohol intake, do more exercise, eat healthy and decrease stress levels” the message is NOT getting through. Despite our own training and also numerous health promotion programs (“Life Be It”, “Measure Up”, “Quit”, etc) our levels of unhealthy lifestyle choices is not changing. Being told that we should be healthy role models does not help – we already know this. The bottom line is – knowledge doesn’t translate into action! The underlying reality is – we are frustrated with ourselves. We know WHAT to do, we know HOW to do it and we are aware that being unhealthy impacts on every facet of our lives. The missing link is going from “knowing” to “doing” in a way that is sustainable and long term. Every single smoker that I have worked with, tells me that they know it is “bad for them” and that they “should quit!” In fact, the majority of these smokers also tell me that they “have quit in the past” but then they “started smoking again because …” Most overweight people are similar – they are aware that they are overweight, they “know” they need to lose weight (in fact many have lost weight in the past only to regain it). Telling an overweight person to lose weight is NOT news to them – they already know it! Bombarding people with WHAT to do does not work. Until we address the “WHY” nothing will change!

If you would like to know more about Nurses’ Health and what you can do, then click here to access the “Nurse Health & Wellness” course (and the bonus is, you can also use this as one hour towards your CPD requirements)