The #1 piece of advice nurses ignore

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I’ve talked about the “Do one – see one – teach one” philosophy that’s the backbone of becoming and being a nurse. Nurses do an awesome job at nurturing the younger generation. Of course, we have heard of “nurses eating their young,” but in my experience that misconception is the exception, not the rule.

Unfortunately, this functional trait of ours doesn’t resonate in all aspects of our job. We have somehow adopted the age-old mantra, “Do as I say, not as I do.” “Don’t imitate my behavior, but follow my instructions” is something we not only pass on to the younger generation of nurses, but also the patients we care for.

Nurses are well-known for their patient education efforts. We take pride in having the unique ability to convey difficult and sometimes complex healthcare solutions and care management details to our patients in a language they can understand and put into action. But we fail at practicing what we preach. I know I’ve touched on this subject before, but it seems to be getting worse.

We lean hard on reactive care and spend little time on preventative care for our patients and ourselves. We so easily tell them to live a healthier lifestyle. We educate them on the benefits of smoking cessation, limiting alcohol consumption and adopting healthier eating habits that include low-fat and low-sodium diets. But somehow we can’t follow our own advice and education?

I hear from other professionals that the nurses they know eat horribly and are not the picture of good health.

I also see that when we nurses get rewarded, we are rewarded with fast food, candy and sweets. And these rewards are coming from our administration as well as patients, families, friends and fellow physician partners.

How can our patients follow our advice if they see we can’t follow it ourselves? How effective are nurses in their educational plight if they are overweight, reek of smoke and have a hard time completing the physical demands of our job?

Maybe I’m biased. Maybe I’m being insensitive. But I believe we have to be held to a higher standard when it comes to leadership. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe ALL healthcare professionals should follow these same standards, not just nurses. But I think we need to start with ourselves.

I know it’s hard. I know it takes a profound amount of work and even a little bit of extra effort, but in the end it’s worth it.

You’re worth it.

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5 Responses to The #1 piece of advice nurses ignore

  1. thisearthlyride Student

    When I got my acceptance letter to nursing school, I quit smoking that day. Other habits have been harder for me to change, but I am working hard to change my diet and exercise habits. Do I think nurses have to be perfect? Absolutely not. But I do think it’s hypocritical of me to tell patients they need to change their eating habits when I should be following the same advice.

    Side note: I’ve experienced the “eating their young” scenario at all but one clinical site. Fortunately, my current (and last) placement is full of nurses who love their work and are happy to teach.

  2. shoshcreech Student

    I totally agree and am working to be the change I talk to patients about. I started running four months ago and now run about 2.5 miles three times a week and I do pilates three days a week on alternate days. When I started, I was at my all time high of (drum roll please) 211.5 pounds. This morning I am at 184.5. That’s 27 pounds folks! So what made me start and what keeps me going? It started with the desire to get as healthy as possible before my husband and I start trying to get pregnant later this year. My motivation deepened though when week after week my patients were largely in hospital due to heart disease and diabetes …. Some of them pretty young to be so sick …. And it finally sunk in for me that I could be in that position if I don’t make some real changes to my lifestyle … Get serious about healthy diet and regular exercise. Since starting on my journey, I have had opportunities to share my story with patients as I encourage them to take charge of and responsibility for their health and I hope that helps. As nurses I think it is so important to model healthy behavior and to honest about the challenge it is to change behavior. We should keep having this conversation with our patients and ourselves.

  3. BridgetLelay Student

    I completely feel guilty reading this! As a person who is supposed to set a standard of health, I do not eat the way I should while I tell others the best way to keep a balanced diet, I overload on sugar and high fat foods. This is a great article to remind nurses to practice what they preach!

  4. lmthomp90 LPN

    The best gift families can bring to the nursing staff are edible fruit arrangements! We can snack on the fruit throughout the day and it gives you energy.