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Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation, a Movement to Impact the Health of Nurses and the Communities They Care For
In May of 2017, the American Nurses Association (ANA) introduced the Healthy Nurses, Healthy Nation (HNHN) Grand Challenge which addresses many physical, environmental, and social health goals directed at improving the health of registered nurses and nursing students to allow then to be more effective health care givers as well as increase their effectiveness as educators by setting an example to those communities that they are caring for. The ANA provided an online platform to document, share information, and engage other nurses to join the movement with focuses on physical activity, safety, quality of life, nutrition, and sleep. This documentation has the potential to provide researched evidence of ideas that were accepted to be common sense notions, but without data to support the ideas. Establishing data that shows improved workplace goals and improved patient outcomes, which both have overall healthcare spending benefits, will impact how nurses are utilized within the health care setting.
A significant portion of our health can be attributed to our food choices. The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) launched a 60-day pilot that was aimed at improving the food choices of nurses by providing healthy, locally sourced options that were readily available within the hospital and challenging nurses to continue to make conscious food choices while not in the hospital. This was quantified by the consumption of the recommended five daily servings of vegetables and fruits. MUSC states that healthy nurses are more likely to educate patients and advocate, as well as demonstrate being an informative health source, resulting in better patient outcomes. Overall, the hospital documented a 183 percent positive change as nurses were consuming more fruits and vegetables at work and at home (MUSC Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation Successes, 2018) after using simple changes such as having healthier food options, labeling food choices with simple fruit and vegetable serving counts, and using easy to read packages. MUSC has provided an example of how the hospital can contribute to the health status of nurses with simple changes.
Another aspect of health is psychological health, and as holistic caregivers, mental health should be addressed by all nurses when thinking about the health of their patients, communities, and of their own well-being. Nursing has been perceived as a high stress work environment, with 82 percent of nurses and nursing students reporting a significant level of stress in the workplace and 68 percent of nurses reporting to be placing the health of their patients before their own self-care (Clark, 2019). Clark (2019) also addresses that nurses often find themselves drawn to their career because of past trauma endured by a person that causes them the desire to prevent, or alleviate, trauma experienced by others. This is supported by using the Center for Disease Control’s model of assessing childhood trauma and how it impacts the health and well-being of these persons as adults. The ANA encompasses aspects of health such as sleep, activity, quality of life, nutrition, and safety (American Nurses Association, 2018) which can all be impacted by the stress level of a person. Nurses need stress resilience to assist with helping to navigating those situations which will be difficult to function in. Medicine and nursing will always come with stress that cannot be mitigated such as navigating complex disease processes and the unexpected death or deterioration of a patient. Healthcare facilities have a responsibility to alleviate stress by providing appropriate hours, appropriate staffing ratios, and resources for nurses to provide care and should be encouraged to do so. Encouraging nurses to determine their own stress situations and promote activities to reduce stress will help to mitigate the stress that cannot be eliminated from the health care setting.
The ANA’s determination on how nurses function as caregivers, educators, advocators, and health resources makes nurses a resource in healthy living. The ANA’s position on having healthy nurses is an important movement as it calls attention to the need for and shows the benefits of healthier and happier nurses within the workforce and community. Nurses are by role expected to care for and promote the health of others in their community, but must also be aware that their own health is subject to the same functions and diseases that they are busy treating every day. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can improve the efficiency and increase the capacity that a nurse can provide care at. This also results in nurses that are healthier outside of their workplace, becoming a community resource of health even when outside of the work environment by continuing to teach, advocate, and promote health within the community. Healthy nurses also have the potential to shape the future of nursing and determine how healthcare facilities view the health of their nurses. Healthy nurses have the potential for longer careers and increase the desire for the transition of experienced nurses becoming nurse educators. Nurses know the importance of a healthy lifestyle and the documentation provided by initiatives such as Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation can provide evidence of the benefits healthy nurses give to their patients and communities.
- American Nurses Association. (2018, November). Healthy Nurses. Retrieved from https://www.nursingworld.org/practice-policy/hnhn/
- Clark, C. S. (2019). Healthy Nurse, Resilient Nurse. Beginnings, 39(3), 6-28. Retrieved from http://db07.linccweb.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ccm&AN=137024338&site=ehost-live
- MUSC Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation Successes. (2018). South Carolina Nurse, 26(1), 1. Retrieved from http://db07.linccweb.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ccm&AN=133856864&site=ehost-live
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