Improving a Nurse’s Diet

Guest Blog by: Ashley Umoren, WGU Alumni – MSN Leadership and Management, Anesthesia Nurse at Mercy Iowa City Hospital

Working as a nurse is often without applause, appreciation, or bathroom breaks. 

Nurses put themselves and their needs on the back burner for sometimes 14 hours a day to ensure their patients are well nourished, comfortable, and receiving the best outcome possible.  Some days, and nurses all know the days, nurses even put the patient’s families ahead of their own needs.

Working at night in a hospital, on call in the operating room, or on the floor for a 12 hour shift, can make a nutritious diet challenging.  In the operating room, the patients that come in for surgery at night are often urgent or emergent cases that do not allow time for the staff to eat.  When there is time between cases, vending machines are often the only option.  This is much the same for a nurse on the floor, except they do not always have time to eat, even if good food were available. 

A couple of years ago, a co-worker, Becky, and I decided that we needed to get healthier.  We downloaded the MyFitnessPal app on our phones and got to work on improving our diets.  That is when we noticed our hurdle - healthy food available during night shifts.  The MyFitnessPal app sends us weekly emails with information about maintaining a healthy diet and exercise.  One week, the email discussed improving your diet on the go and what foods are good to eat to keep a person going while staying healthy.  Becky and I were discussing it one day when the physicians we work with were around and we decided that the food available to us needed to be healthier. 

We discussed the proposed change with the dietary director, and with her support, we made changes at the hospital.  There is now a fridge available to all employees that contains yogurt, cheese sticks, chopped vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, mixed nuts and fruit bars.  Administration made changes to the vending machines and quick grab foods in the hospital cafeteria as well. Fresh fruits and vegetables are new to the cafeteria. Mercy Iowa City has done a great job in making healthier foods more widely available.

Having foods that are healthy and quick to eat can make a huge difference in the life and diet of a nurse.  While we are taught to put the patient first, we cannot take proper care of our patients without being healthy ourselves.  Small changes like grabbing a yogurt instead of a bag of chips can make a big difference in a person’s diet.  These types of quick and healthy foods can help sustain a busy nurse through a crazy day or night.  Let’s face it, sometimes the only time a nurse gets to eat or drink anything is while they chart on their patient.

If you are trying to be healthier and boost your energy around the clock, changing your snack foods during a shift is a great place to start.  When I started tracking my food with the MyFitnessPal app, I was appalled at what I was eating during a shift.  Receiving their weekly tip email has also been helpful in making my food selections in the cafeteria, in restaurants, and at the grocery store.  Being a nurse can be exhausting.  Finding a way to get healthier should not be.


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