Covid-19 has created an unprecedented demand for nurses at the bedside. Caring for the infected is particularly stressful, especially since our understanding of the virus evolves almost daily. As a result, many nurses report feelings of anxiety, guilt, and conflict when performing their duties.
These factors each have a role in a nurse’s ability and desire to practice self-care. And even though nurses are trained to help their patients live more healthfully, they often neglect their own health in the process. Prior research has already detailed unhealthy eating and exercise habits common among the healthcare workforce, but there isn’t a good understanding of why nurses may avoid health-promoting activities.
Analysis of the factors preventing adequate self-care among nurses, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, is the first step toward a more healthful workforce. Understanding these factors can help promote healthy behaviors and direct future nursing practice.
Recent research published in Advances in Nursing Science examines several factors that limit or prevent nurses from participating in any number of self-care activities, such as maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. A review of 26 other research studies showed a variety of situational barriers to healthy eating in the workplace, including:
Many of these factors, such as long working hours and fatigue, also influence a nurse’s decision to exercise outside the workplace.
Through an online survey, study authors identified five themes preventing many nurses from participation in self-care:
Fortunately, the study also identified ways to encourage nurses to adopt healthier eating and exercise habits so they can best care for their patients. Many nurses involved in the study reported that their peers and managers offered support and help for adopting healthier practices, especially on the front lines of the pandemic. From going on walks together during breaks to sharing healthy snacks, positive role models can be instrumental in the adoption of healthier habits.
The American Psychiatric Association also highlights several techniques to reduce stress and increase self-care activities during the pandemic, such as eating foods which fight inflammation, scheduling time for self-care activities like exercise, and creating supportive connections with colleagues also working on the front lines.
Since nurses must be healthy to properly care for Covid-19 patients, it’s especially important to find ways to support healthy decision making in the workplace. Making good food decisions and exercising can help mitigate feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and anxiety, which in turn helps nurses deliver better patient care.
Lippincott Solutions note: for the latest coverage on Covid-19 by the Lippincott Nursing team, please visit nursingcenter.com/coronavirus.