For our entire careers, we teach our patients the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet, exercise, hydration, and quality sleep. We concern ourselves with holistically looking at each individual patient and how we can help them achieve their best possible state of health through treatments or primary prevention through education.
THEN THERE IS THE NURSE…
- Who got mandated to work overtime yesterday.
- Who fueled that 16-hour shift with caffeine-packed energy drinks or coffee
- Could barely keep their eyes open for their drive home
- Could not fall asleep once lying in bed
- Had to wake up to take care of their own family after getting only one hour of decent sleep
- Grabbed some drive-thru food on their way to work
- Consumed more caffeine to make it to their next shift only eight hours later
- Bought food in the cafeteria and inhaled it while on their five-minute break
- Again, could barely keep their eyes open for their drive home
- Binge ate everything in sight once at home since there was no time for a proper meal at work
- Had to recoup by sleeping the next 12 hours to make up for lost time
- Gave up on their exercise this week because they were just too exhausted and could not find the time.
- Got irritable with family members which put strains on their relationships
- Stressed out about strains on their relationships
- Drank some adult beverages of their choice to de-stress and cope
- And did it all again next week.
Sometimes our employers put unrealistic expectations on their staff. Nurses are worked to the bone with long hours, heavy lifting, constantly on their feet, alarm fatigue and challenging patients. They are not getting adequate break periods at work due to the increasing demands of patients, which leaves them no time to regroup, refuel, clear their head and get back to being the best nurse they can possibly be.
Mandated overtime cuts into their work/life balance and pulls them away from their families and their relaxation time (which everybody needs!) When personal time is cut short, exhaustion creeps in and nurses give up on things like healthy home-cooked meals, exercise, and sleep.
I think nurses must challenge and question their employers’ policies on hours worked and maintain a record of each time they are mandated to work extra hours, take unsafe patient assignments, were not given adequate resources, etc.
Find out who you can address these issues with. Is there a union, HR or organization within your workplace that you can file a formal grievance or complaint with? If so, it is a good idea to calmly and professionally do so, so these issues can be brought to attention, staff members are treated with the respect they deserve, and ultimately patients benefit from well-cared-for, content staff.
So, ironically, many nursing job/positions indirectly breed this unhealthy behavior and trap nurses in a lifestyle that is not so healthy. Let’s advocate for one another; safe hours, patient ratios, adequate resources…whatever you may think is contributing to the burnout nurses are facing and keeping them from practicing what they preach! Stand up for safe workplace practices, and let’s motivate one another to keep ourselves healthy so we can continue to take care of others.
What practices do you see in your workplace that prevent nurses from “practicing what they preach?” How do you cope? Leave a comment below!