Peggy McDaniel, BSN, RN, is an infusion practice manager and occasional blogger on this site

By Ballistik Coffee Boy/via Flickr

A recent national survey revealed that nurses as a profession are the most dependent on coffee (the survey was commissioned, in part, by Dunkin’ Donuts, though at least conducted by Harris Interactive). The survey asked 3,600 people about their productivity as it related to coffee consumption. The results are interesting if not surprising. Physicians fall in just behind nurses, and hotel workers hold third place.

While working the night shift early in my career, I got my caffeine jolt from diet soda. Not too many years later I developed a taste for coffee by adding hot chocolate to it, in effect creating “mochas” before they were sold for $3.50 each. I still prefer fancier concoctions such as flavored lattes, but in a pinch can be found clutching a packet of powdered creamer over a black cup of hotel room coffee. Some may venture to compare my progressive caffeine consumption to an addiction, and I can’t totally discount that theory. But if you consider that the top three positions on the survey may require work during the night, is it surprising that those who do these jobs also report some dependence on a stimulant? Since many of us seem to depend on caffeine to perform our jobs, perhaps the real question is whether we’re getting any benefit from all those cups of joe.

As this recent article summarizes—and as you’ve no doubt learned from various news sources—those of us with the habit may be less likely than those who don’t drink coffee (and I emphasize may, since little of this is actually proven) “to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia.” As a group, we also seem to “have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes.”

Or, as Frank Hu, a nutrition and epidemiology professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, puts it, “There is certainly much more good news than bad news, in terms of coffee and health.” Research by Hu and others reveals a possible correlation between coffee intake and reduced occurrence of various diseases or conditions.  Similar benefits have also been noted among those drinking tea and decaf coffee, so those of you who just like the flavor may be reaping the rewards as well. Since this research didn’t ask folks to skip their coffee, but instead only asked about habits, these studies can’t show cause and effect. Despite these caveats, I readily admit that I enjoyed the article.

Quite a while ago I wrote on this blog about some ways nurses relax and take our minds off our jobs. On the other end of the spectrum, how do you keep yourself focused at work? Do you do something different depending on what time of day it might be? Have your methods changed over time? I’ve been a nurse for over 25 years and my habits have been influenced by changes related to my schedule, job requirements, activity levels, travel, and many other factors. Let’s hear from you. I’m off to pour my last cup of coffee for the day.

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