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Nursing is a rewarding and fast-paced profession that requires stamina. Eating as healthy as possible, and staying hydrated, is crucial to supporting your ability to perform well in such a demanding profession.
Ignoring the need for healthy fuel to keep your body and mind strong (although very common among nurses) can leave you vulnerable to fatigue and stress-induced illness, while also depleting your immune system. Eating schedules for nurses can help keep you healthy.
Take the following advice to heart to help you create the right mindset for eating healthy as a nurse, and use the practical tips below to help you stay on track with nutrition.
In a weakened state, without adequate nutritional support, you’re more likely to make mistakes, which could threaten your health and/or that of your patients. Inadequate nutrition can also leave you vulnerable to contagious illnesses that you may be exposed to at work. Paying close attention to eating healthy on the job is vital for you as a nurse. If you've been relatively lucky so far, with no disastrous effects from skipping proper meals at work, your luck might not hold out long term. Make healthy eating habits a priority.
The daily realities of nursing, including potential lack of coverage for breaks and the inability to eat at a hospital nursing station (or in patient care areas in other medical settings), make healthy eating habits on the job very challenging. Since nurses confront and handle many difficult challenges in a given work shift, you can also conquer this nutritional challenge if you give it the focus, creativity and priority it deserves.
Never forget how important taking time to eat (and eating right) is to your profession. Don’t set your breaks aside until you have more time, because you never will. Chances are that you’ve repeatedly advised your patient’s family caregivers to care for themselves in order to stay strong. Don’t forget to take your own advice. If you supervise others, make breaks away from the action a priority for everyone.
Sealed packs of nuts are portable, stay fresh a long while, supply lots of protein for energy and can be eaten quickly, on the go. Oatmeal is another portable, energy-packed breakfast or snack which can be spiced up with a variety of natural tastes, including cinnamon, honey, blueberries, raisins, cranberries and more.
If there is a nearby area where covered beverages can be safely close by during the day, use it.
Eating (and eating well) now and then doesn’t help much long term—just like eating a good breakfast won’t get you through a whole shift. As the American Nurses Association recently pointed out, “The key to good nutrition, and the modulation of stressors and inflammation, is to have healthy nutrient intakes before any chronic conditions develop. [Sufficient] nutrients … help to decrease inflammation and subsequent oxidative stress.”
Plan breaks and lunches to eat and drink regularly throughout the day, every day. Set alarms on your watch if necessary to remember when it's time to eat.
Sleep deprivation or low-quality sleep weakens you over time and causes stress. In addition, it can cause you to crave unhealthy foods, high in fats, carbohydrates, caffeine, and sugar. Your shifts may make some sleep deprivation inevitable, but make an effort to experiment with yoga, chamomile tea, and other relaxation methods to encourage restful sleep.
Taking care of yourself requires extra effort when you're a busy nurse, but it's worth it -- because you're worth it. What tips do you have for staying healthy and eating right as a travel nurse?