‘Do You Consider Yourself Healthy?’ Study Sheds Light on RNs’ Lifestyle Practices

By Sylvia Foley, AJN senior editor

Over the past decade, the lifestyle practices of nurses and their connection to quality of care and patient outcomes have been gaining attention. Indeed, according to the patient-centered, relationship-based care model, one of the main conditions for optimal care is that providers engage in healthy self-care behaviors. Yet there is some evidence suggesting that RNs don’t consistently do so, especially when it comes to exercise and stress reduction—even when they believe they should.

Nurse researchers Karen Thacker and colleagues recently conducted a study to learn more. They report their findings in this month’s CE–Original Research feature, “An Investigation into the Health-Promoting Lifestyle Practices of RNs.” Here’s a brief summary:

Purpose: To gather baseline data on the health-promoting lifestyle practices of RNs working in six major health care and educational institutions in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Methods: The 52-item Health-Promoting Lifestyle Profile II instrument was used to explore participants’ self-reported health-promoting behaviors and measure six dimensions: health responsibility, physical activity, nutrition, interpersonal relations, spiritual growth, and stress management.
Results: Findings revealed that physical activity and stress management scores were low for the entire group of RNs. There were statistically significant differences between nurses 50 years of age and older and those 30 to 39 years of age for the subscales of health responsibility, nutrition, and stress management, suggesting that older nurses are more concerned about their health. Sixty-seven percent of participants reported having too many competing priorities and had significantly lower subscale scores for spiritual growth, interpersonal relations, and stress management, as well as significantly lower total scores.
Conclusion: The findings provided baseline data that will be useful in planning health-promoting lifestyle interventions for participants specific to their institutions, and that may help guide future research and educational initiatives.

Implications. The authors call for further research so that we can better understand and address the failure of RNs to take adequate care of themselves. They also state that the responsibility for improving lifestyle behaviors lies with both individual RNs and their employers, and recommend an interventional approach that includes “fostering internal motivation and increasing external incentives at the personal and organizational levels.”

For more, read the article, which is free online, and listen to a conversation with one of the authors.

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