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I’m A Nurse, And I Know Why Many of Us Don’t Take Care Of Our Own Health - News - Nurses Arena Forum

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I’m A Nurse, And I Know Why Many of Us Don’t Take Care Of Our Own Health by Idowu Olabode : May 31, 2019, 04:49:39 PM
Back in January, I hired a personal trainer to guide me through twice-weekly workouts. This was no mere New Year’s resolution, but the result of an epiphany months earlier: Even thinking about taking the stairs was enough to make me start huffing and puffing.

That may seem a surprising admission for a health-care professional. Yet it was at the start of my nursing career more than 13 years ago that my health began to deteriorate.


    Out of breath after a flight of stairs? Here’s why and how to fix it


In nursing school, during my clinical rotations, I never saw the experienced nurses take a lunch hour or even step off the unit for so much as a restroom break. We trainees quickly absorbed the unspoken rule, that to be a “good” nurse, you had to make sacrifices.

Once I graduated from nursing school, I emulated the best nurses I knew. I wasn’t at all surprised when, during orientation for my first job in critical care, there was no talk of resting or caring for ourselves. Everyone else – especially patients and their families – came first.



I didn’t eat most days until the end of my 12-hour shift, and drank as little water as possible so I wouldn’t have to go to the restroom.

But soon I found I did have to make time in my off-duty hours to see my doctor for various ailments. By my third year, I was seeing a cardiologist to help figure out why, young as I was, I was suffering from high blood pressure and chest pain.

By my fifth year of nursing, I had several cardiac-related scares. For both my pregnancies, I was placed on bed rest. I was taking blood pressure medications before I was 30 years old. I had barely enough energy to work and care for my young family. Who has time for all that and exercise, too?

Yet I kept going, squeezing in my favorite kick-boxing classes as much as I could. What sidelined me were severe shoulder injuries I suffered at work while caring for patients. Injuries, plus surgery, meant four years of too little movement and too many calories.



I’m far from alone. Unpredictable schedules, stressful work, diet and exercise habits all are contributing to high rates of overweight and obesity in my profession. A recent DePaul University report points to all those well-known factors and calls into question how effective nurses can be as health educators if we are not the pictures of health.

That’s an excellent point. But I am learning that there is more than one way to be a role model.

Discovering what it takes to make my own health a priority means I can identify with my patients and clients who have similar challenges. I’m coming from a place of empathy and understanding, and am letting them know that I am joining them on their journey.

In my experience, the main reasons nursing work can take a toll on our health are the same reasons we chose this profession: We put our patients and their families first. Then, once we have our own families, the pattern is set. We are caretakers of others, but not ourselves.

Correcting this issue will mean changing how we train student nurses and how we treat veteran nurses. From the time training begins, the importance of self-care has to be emphasized. Employers need to tell nurses that it’s OK to take breaks at work. And they need to provide safe staffing levels so nurses know their patients will be cared for if they duck out for lunch or to take a walk.

A month or so ago, my trainer posted a video of my workouts on Facebook and Instagram. I thought I would be embarrassed, figuring I would see only struggle in that video. But I also saw determination. And although it's been happening slower than I would like, I feel the benefits of the work I'm doing.

I’ve always encouraged patients and clients to believe they are worth the hard work it takes to be healthy. Now they can see that I believe that message, too.

Kyana Brathwaite is a Philadelphia registered nurse and founder/CEO of KB CALS (Caring Advocacy & Liaison Services), which helps patients navigate the health-care system. Contact her at KyanaB@kbcals.com.

Credit: https://www.philly.com/health/nurses-wellness-obesity-self-care-20190531.html

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