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Helping nurses get healthier: Researchers explore limits of on-the-job resources

female nurse
Photo: FatCamera/iStockphoto

Brisbane, Australia – Challenging work environments make it difficult for nurses to adopt healthier habits – even when wellness-centered resources are available, according to a recent study from the University of Queensland.

Researchers analyzed 47 nurses working in separate metropolitan hospitals in Australia during a three-month pilot intervention intended to promote better diet and exercise habits. A majority of the participants were women who worked full time, and more than half worked at least one overnight shift.

Body measurements from each nurse were taken, and participants completed questionnaires in which they were asked to self-relate their health and interest in embracing healthier behaviors and available social support. Finally, the participants were asked to set realistic health goals.

Participants used an accelerometer for seven days and had access to pedometers, a smartphone app and a Facebook group during the intervention. Measurements were taken again after three months and at a six-month follow-up, and similar questionnaires were completed.

The researchers found that although the nurses’ fruit and vegetable consumption increased significantly, physical activity levels slightly decreased. Nurses reported that it was easier to change diet than become more physically active, and cited lack of time and lack of appeal of provided resources as possible reasons for the discrepancy.


“The complexity of nurses’ working environment limits the number of workplace programs to help them achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle,” Luciana Torquati, lead author and honorary fellow at the University of Queensland School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, said in an Oct. 8 press release. “This study’s aim was to evaluate and understand key factors to overcome the barriers to creating programs to help them change unhealthy behaviors.”

The study was published in the November-December edition of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

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