With this amazing career comes a range of not-so-awesome new complaints. What to eat, when to eat, how to prep quick snacks, how to have more energy for night shifts, avoiding stomach aches? The list went on as I started talking to nurses. I realized that nurses, although wonderful caregivers, were not-so-great at being careGIVERS to themselves. I decided it was time to dig deep and dirty and do some real research.
"Nutrition for Nurses" led me to a google search that turned up nothing in regards to care for the actual nurses themselves. For nurses, its all about everyone else. While that's beautiful, I was concerned that with that level of giving day after day, year after year, night shift after night shift, to everyone around you except you... what would that lead to?
I spent 2 months doing research and talking to hundreds of nurses from around the world as well as locally here in BC, Canada. I realized that my initial thought and worry was correct: most nurses were not taking care of themselves with proper nutrition.
I wanted to find out why. Here are some amazing findings about the common struggles of all these hardworking caregivers.
Nutrition challenges of Nurses Worldwide
The aim of the research was to
- Uncover the top diet and nutrition challenges faced by nurses
- Find out what solutions nurses would appreciate
Respondents were a mix of nurses working in hospitals in a combination of wards.
TOP NUTRITION CHALLENGES FACING NURSES:
- Low energy while on shifts, specifically the night shift
- Time pressures and difficulties planning quick and healthy meals
- No time to take breaks while on shift/rushed break times
- Needing quick food and eating inappropriate snacks (junk food) while on shift, specifically the night shift
- Self control, stress eating, emotional eating, binge eating after long shift with no food
Other problems included: temptation of convenience and junk foods as gifts from others or from vending machines, lack of motivation to cook after a 12 hour shift, lack of knowledge on healthy snacks, not eating regularly enough, lack of access to healthy food (hospital cafeteria) and eating on the run.
These challenges made nurses feel frustrated, tired, weary, irritated, hungry, unhealthy, fatigued, overwhelmed, and even “hopeless.” One nurse said that her career felt “so crazy that nutrition does not take priority at all,” and another also added “I know that it’s important but I just don’t take the time to deal with it.” One respondent even said that because she was so fatigued, patients’ care and treatment was at risk of suffering. Another one was in awe at the findings, noting “us health care professionals should be able to take better care of ourselves.”
Nurses said that they would rather feel more energetic, more organized, more motivated and have more positive support. Most nurses also added that knowing healthier choices for food would make them happier.
- Weekly emailed meal plans and shopping lists
- Online group support with meal ideas and a positive forum
- One to one coaching
Not many nurses had tried to solve their nutrition challenges. The range of solutions some nurses had tried were avoiding purchasing ‘treat’ foods, avoiding eating all together (specifically on the night shift) and meal plans with allotted calorie intake.
For most, the solutions they had tried worked ‘sometimes’, except when they ran out of motivation or energy. Many nurses admitted to never attempting to solve their nutrition challenges and most said that they feel they do know how to eat healthy but time was the factor. Some nurses also said they lacked time to research proper nutrition, and very few nurses said they were never really concerned about nutrition concepts/issues.
When asked what they do with a magic (nutrition!) wand, most wanted healthy meals prepared fresh for them so their energy would be higher. Some wanted the motivation to prepare healthy food and others wanted more time in the 12 hour day. Others wanted the cafeteria in their hospital to begin offering healthier choices.
USE OF A NUTRITIONAL CONSULTANT:
The majority of nurses had not used the services of a nutritional consultant. They never considered it or felt the need until they talked to me or took my survey and started to reflect on their own eating habits. Some used other resources (online information, colleagues or friends advice) and some said they had enough knowledge themselves. Nurses that did want a Nutritionists' aid said they needed knowledge on the healthiest food, motivation and accountability, knowledge on high-energy giving foods, tips and meal plans and how to eat on the night shift.
WE LOVE OUR NURSES!
Ready to dive in and work on your nutrition? We have a meal plan curated just for you in our shop!
Guaranteed to give you the motivation you need to start eating for your career, recipe and snack ideas that you can follow - or not - but have the resources available to finally start taking more steps ahead towards a better balanced diet that supports your energy levels so you can get back to doing what you do best.