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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