Nurses make up one of the largest segments of the global healthcare workforce. On a daily basis, many nurses work on the front lines providing care to patients while serving as a lifeline of information, encouragement, and education to family members of patients. Hence, keeping nurses healthy and productive is an obvious priority for healthcare systems.
In a report in the US National Library of Medicine, 120 nurses in the Midwest completed a questionnaire which showed that 92% had moderate-to-very high stress levels; 78% slept less than 8 hours of sleep per night; 69% did not exercise regularly; 63% consumed less than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day; and 22% were classified as binge drinkers.
When confronted with workplace stress, 70% of nurses reported that they consumed more junk food and 63% reported that they consumed more food than usual as a way of coping.
The challenges that nurses face in practicing healthy behaviors are exacerbated by the fact that nurses have many competing demands for their time, energy, and attention. Nurses must focus on the health of their patients, the needs of patients’ family members, the demands of physicians and supervisors, their own needs, and the concerns of their own family members.
The increasing demands faced by nurses impact all areas of nurses’ personal and professional lives and increase their risks of chronic stress, work-family conflict, and unhealthy behaviors.
The report recommended that management has a big role to play in providing health promotion services and employee assistance programs to help deal with stress-related poor health behaviors.