Ever since the origin of their noble profession, nurses have been wholly committed to caring for and safeguarding the health of their patients, sometimes even at their own expense. Besides being one of the primary caregivers in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare centers, nurses also play the role teacher, patient advocate and, also importantly, a listening ear to the patient’s concerns. Moreover, as America’s number one most trusted, honest, and ethical profession according to a survey conducted by the American Nurses Association, these brave men and women are among the most sought-out experts when it comes to lifestyle changes and health consultancy, in general. It goes without saying that nurses definitely have a heavy burden to bear in the name of all their patients.
However, as one of the most important professionals dedicated to taking care of people on a daily basis, who takes care of all the nurses that pour blood, sweat, and tears into their work? This is the question asked by the American Nurses Association as part of their new initiative called the “Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation Grand Challenge”, which is designed to improve the lives of one of America’s most important caregivers. This health campaign is directed towards all of the country’s registered nurses which consists of around 3.6 million professionals nationwide.
Reasons Behind the Campaign
The reason behind this campaign is that, as was mentioned above, while nurses are the cornerstones of healthcare around which most of the in-hospital treatment revolves, these services tend to come at the expense of their own personal health and well-being. It has been a known fact for several years now that an important number of nurses are less healthy than the average American, even less so than some of the patients they’re tasked with caring for. As it turns out, these healthcare professionals are, according to statistics, more likely to be overweight, have higher levels of stress, and get less than the recommended hours of sleep each night. Furthermore, the inherent risk in the workplace such as musculoskeletal injuries and violence contribute greatly to their detriment. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the nursing profession has the highest risk of non-fatal workplace injuries, even surpassing those of the construction sector.
It is the very nature of the profession which entails such hazards; 24 hours of healthcare, 7 days a week leads to long work shifts which can, in the worst cases, surpass 24 hours and negatively impact the health of the caregivers. Furthermore, as the main directive of these experts is to preserve and in some cases rebuild the health of their patients, it is expected that a great deal of stress can be put on the shoulders of these professionals. As a matter of fact, according to the American Nurses Association, stress has been listed as the most important health risk factor for these professionals, with several studies supporting said claims. Other important health risks stem from the tasks inherent to the profession, such as the aforementioned shift work, constantly lifting up patients and other physical labor which are often the cause of debilitating or even career-ending injuries. Programs designed to reduce the impact of labor on the nurses, such as the Safe Patient Handling and Mobility programs, when properly implemented, can definitely improve their workplace situation.
The Healthy Nurse, Health Nation Grand Challenge
Regardless, despite improvements made to the workplace, the fact still remains that the assigned tasks still require a lot of effort and time from the nursing staff, and the old challenges that have presented themselves since the beginning are not likely to go away anytime soon. For this reason, the American Nurses Association is addressing these issues with the Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation Grand Challenge initiative. The objective of this campaign is twofold: on one hand, healthier professionals are more likely to convey better service and advice to their patients; on the other — and more importantly —, the health and wellness of the country’s nurses should be equal or better than that of the patients they’re caring for.
This new initiative already counts with hundreds of followers and partners, all of which contribute in one way or another to improve the nurses’ lives. The program lends them support by providing resources to the nurses to guide them on their road to personal health and wellness. The campaign is designed to improve these professionals’ lives in 5 key areas: physical activity, nutrition, safety, quality of life, and rest. The idea is that each nurse should create their own plan to fit their individual lifestyle and which encompasses each of the dimensions.
Furthermore, the nature of the campaign varies slightly for each regional branch. For instance, the Nebraska Nurses Association is complementing their campaign with 5K fun run/walk and additional yoga lessons for all interested nurses. The Mayo Clinic in Arizona is putting their own spin on things by adopting the “change your number” program in which every participant commits to a positive improvement in one of their most problematic areas such as stress, weight, rest, or any medical affliction. The VCU Health in Virginia has designated 5 “Watson Rooms” on site where nurses can take a few minutes to relax, unwind, and decompress from the daily grind, or to take well-earned naps or rests after their shift is over. These rooms are well-equipped with massage chairs, soft mood lighting, aromatherapy, and even calming music.
Every hospital and health center has their own different approach to following the Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation Grand Challenge initiative, though they all ultimately have the same goal in mind: to ensure the health, safety and well being of our hard-working nurses. The biggest expectation is that other organizations around the world also begin to raise awareness of the nurses’ plight and take appropriate measures to improve their condition both inside and outside the workplace.
For more information about this amazing initiative, feel free to visit the Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation campaign’s website by clicking on this link. This site contains information on the initiative, as well as the appropriate links and resources on how anyone can contribute to their cause and make a difference.