Nurses, Exercise, Time: Hitting a Nerve

Flickr creative commons/ Richard Masoner

Flickr creative commons/ Richard Masoner

Hitting a Nerve. I received several recent emails about an editorial I wrote in the April issue of AJN, in which I discussed nurses’ health practices, including exercise, in conjunction with one of our feature articles, Original Research: An Investigation into the Health-Promoting Lifestyle Practices of RNs.”

The authors found that, for study participants,

physical activity and stress management scores were low for the entire group of RNs.”

Drawing a connection between these findings and recent research by Letvak and colleagues suggesting an association between nurses’ health and job performance, I wrote, “If the nurse caring for you or your loved one is suffering from fatigue and stress, she or he may be more apt to make an error or to sustain a workplace injury.”

Judging from the emails I received, I hit a chord. The writers stressed the difficulty of working full time and, in many cases, caring for a family as well. Often, they said, they had little energy left over for themselves. One writer, though, did say that my editorial was the ‘kick’ she needed to get back to walking!

But even well-intentioned workplace wellness programs may not solve this problem for nurses. A recent ANA survey of more than 3,700 nurses found that a majority had wellness programs at work, many of which included workplace exercise and weight management programs. Still, as I noted in my editorial, it’s not clear whether inadequate staffing and other systemic barriers, such as long shifts, make it hard for nurses to actually use such resources.

Workplaces must start making adequate self-care a realistic option for nurses. In the meantime, I wonder if the 12-hour shift makes for better or worse exercise habits than the eight-hour shift?

About the Author:

Editor-in-chief, AJN

One Comment

  1. Susan April 28, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    This was an interesting read for me. I have thirty years in nursing; the first fifteen in clinical, nine as a medical case manager for people having undergone major work injuries ( a salaried desk job), then the most recent six back doing hospital work in a surgical area.

    My health declined the most with the Mon – Fri desk job! It might have been the need to put in 50 hour weeks to keep up with expectations, the strong desire to get ” away from the desk” – meaning eating out much, or the fact that I was sitting sedentary for long periods of time. Computer work and phone conferences don’t burn calories or work your heart in a healthy way.

    Yes, I have bunions, heel spurts, and good money spent on orthotics, but I am technically healthier.

    I believe that compassion fatigue leads to the physical fatigue and it snowballs from there.
    On the comment of 12 hour shifts, at 51 I’d probably decline the 3-4 day week as I’d be spending at least one of the off days with my feet up. All day!

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