May 6, 2020
Improving Nurse Health Through Food and Wellness
Nurses are on the frontlines. Whether fighting a pandemic or providing compassionate care to a patient, nurses are the foundation of our healthcare system. Through their work, they face unique challenges.
According to an American Nurses Association (ANA) report on nurse wellness, “In all, 70% of nurses surveyed report putting the health, safety, and wellness of their patients before their own, proving that now is the right time to make ourselves a priority.”
We’ve seen this time and again during the COVID-19 response. While this is a commendable sacrifice, nurses wellness must remain at the forefront during this pandemic and far beyond. When nurses are working at peak wellness, they give the best care. As a result, Morrison Healthcare teams are doing everything they can to care for caregivers in this time of stress. From care packages to take-home meals and pop-up markets, Morrison is finding ways to address the needs of the hospital staff and their families, while maintaining the strictest safety measures. These steps demonstrate an investment in the health of nurses and communities that will continue long past this pandemic.
Furthering our commitment to nurses, Morrison Healthcare and Compass One Healthcare, have partnered with ANA’s Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ initiative, which aims to improve the health of the nation by first improving the health of America’s four million registered nurses. Food is a powerful tool that can have a broad range of benefits for the health and wellbeing of nurses.
“Nurses have been well educated in nutrition, but often find it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” said Holly Carpenter, RN, BSN, senior policy advisor at American Nurses Association. “With an emphasis on nutrition and quality of life, we are addressing critical areas associated with overall wellness. Through our partnership with Morrison Healthcare and Compass One, we can make a tangible impact on the health of the nursing population.”
The impact of foodservice on nurse health
Hospital foodservice plays an important role in providing a healthy environment for nurses to work and thrive, but more can be done to improve the health of nurses. According to the ANA Enterprise HealthyNurse® Survey, the average body mass index (BMI) for nurses is 28.5, which falls into the overweight category.
Looking at survey data from ANA Enterprise, nurses are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Twenty-nine percent say they consume two servings a day, while 25 percent say three servings. Both are well below the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that all individuals eat between three-to-five servings of whole grains and five-to-nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily. In the same survey, 30 percent of nurses said they don’t feel they have access to healthy food choices at work.
Morrison Healthcare’s expertise in foodservice can galvanize hospitals as they create a healthier environment for nurses. Through a three-pronged approach utilizing Access, Choice, and Convenience, we can make a difference in the health of our nursing population.
One of the most important factors in nurse health is access to healthy food. Nursing is a 24-hour profession. Time plays a major component in the availability of nutritious dietary options. Nurses don’t always have time to make a healthy meal and, depending on what shift a nurse works, the only takeaway option may be fast food.
It’s important to change this and give them access to high-quality, healthy food around the clock. This can take the form of take-away meals, pop-up shops, or just making sure there are healthy options available at the hospital during their shift.
A concept called Healthy Choice Architecture can make a difference in the food nurses consume. At a high level, this strategy puts healthy options in front of nurses and other hospital staff, encouraging them to make better choices. This can take many forms. In the case of sugar sweetened beverages, one of the most effective ways to reduce the impulse to buy unhealthy beverages is to remove them from eyesight. By positioning water and other healthy options at eye level, people are more likely to purchase the healthier option. This is a subliminal way to promote healthy food options.
Nurses are busy. They’re juggling everything from patient care to family life and don’t have much time for themselves. If they’re going to make healthy choices, we need to make it easy. That’s where convenience comes in. By providing healthy options that are readily accessible and quick, we can give them the power to make the right choices regardless of their situation. This often takes the form of grab and go options, but there are other creative ways to make sure nurses get the nutrition they need to serve patients.
Nursing is the foundation of our healthcare system. We’ve already seen the World Health Organization dub 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, but let’s not stop there. By continuing to shine a spotlight on nurses beyond 2020, we are not only giving them the gift of wellness but supplying them with the tools to better care for patients and create healthier communities.