But the expectations thrust upon nurses are often accompanied by long and variable work hours, exposing them to the stressors of caring for ill people, like sleep deprivation, lack of time to address family responsibilities, and upset of the biological clock.
When working shifts, you don’t have a routine meal schedule, and this can be further complicated by working back-to-back 12-hour shifts. Such schedules may disrupt your personal life and sleep and waking patterns (circadian rhythms), resulting in chronic fatigue, GI distress, cluster headaches, and a myriad of other problems.
Managing Healthy Eating as a Nurse
A study conducted by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality revealed that nurses regularly miss or skip meals to attend to patients. The result is snacking on unhealthy and less nutritious high-calorie items, like chips or candy bars, which are easily accessible via vending machines.
But having little time to rest or eat is not a good excuse for missing meals. There are many options for preparing and consuming healthy meals within small time frames, though it requires good planning and commitment. Here are some useful tips:
1. Carry meals from home.
When you have a bit of time to prepare a balanced meal at home, you can bring it to work and eat it when you get the opportunity. You can also save money that would otherwise be spent on eating out by ordering food.
2. Divide your home meal into a morning snack, lunch, and small afternoon snack.
Dividing your meal into smaller portions is advantageous in a number of ways. First, it eliminates the need to binge on a single large meal, which can affect your caloric intake. Second, you have a better chance of finishing a small meal and enjoying it, so you don’t have to skip meals. Third, it keeps you away from sugary vending-machine snacks and fatty or spicy foods. And fourth, you can enjoy your meals when relaxed.
Skipping meals can lead to cravings and blood glucose spikes that trigger the increased production of triglycerides – stored as body fat, increasing the risk of weight gain.
3. Carry a large bottle of water.
It is important that you stay well hydrated to ensure proper circulation, body temperature regulation, bowel function, and proper transport of nutrients throughout the body and water removal. Dehydration is known to stress the heart and raise core body temperature, increasing fatigue. So, try to consume 8 cups of decaffeinated beverages a day. Although coffee can increase your alertness, large amounts of coffee can cause insomnia, stimulate cardiac activity, and exacerbate GI symptoms.
Lastly, you may prefer to eat at a restaurant or cafeteria at your workplace instead of bringing food from home. If this is the case, identify proper meals on the menu to avoid impulse buying. Eating healthy is an important way for nurses to reduce the impact of stressors, improve their health, and boost satisfaction with both work and life in general.