By Janice Bartley MACN
The NurseStrong Campaign is designed to encourage and to help nurses make time each day for their own health and wellbeing. On the eve of the FHIT by Lauren Hannaford program kick off nurses from the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) Hobart Region hosted a NurseStrong 5km Walk. This event brought the nursing community together to begin a shared journey toward health and wellbeing. With uncharacteristically good weather for Tasmania, members, non-members, students and allied health professionals showed up, joined in, and got moving together toward a happier, healthier, stronger, fitter lifestyle.
When the idea for the NurseStrong 5km Walk sprouted it was immediately nurtured by ACN at a local and national level growing with astonishing speed into a large public event which not only directly improved the health of participants, but also set a healthy example for the community: we are nurses, we are here, and we are leading by example toward a healthier lifestyle. Nurses have a large voice in Australia and as a united force an almost limitless capacity to influence positive change. The success of this event is a credit to the immense support from ACN and to the nursing profession itself.
Nurses provide care to all communities, in every setting, all day, every day, but we do not always give priority to caring for ourselves. Shift work places even greater pressure on our capacity to self-care, with many nurses working round-the-clock shifts and long hours, the NurseStrong program is designed so that participation is possible anywhere at any time of the day. Although this portability and flexibility allows for participation in isolation, in Hobart we hoped that the NurseStrong 5km Walk would foster a culture of community support and encouragement. On the day we were able to motivate each other, discuss our personal health goals, troubleshoot foreseeable obstacles to good health, and help each other complete the FHIT fitness test. The day was a fun, relaxing, informal way not just to exercise but to meet new people, to learn from each other, and to gain different perspectives on both health and nursing.
The message of health, wellbeing and self-care is exceedingly important for nurses but it is certainly not exclusive to nurses. When Hobart’s local newspaper caught word of the NurseStrong 5km Walk and its positive health message they wanted to share it with the broader community. The chance to be interviewed by the local newspaper about NurseStrong and about our NurseStrong 5km Walk was an opportunity to share a very important health message and to show that as nurses we lead by example. The impact of making changes toward a healthier lifestyle can be immense – increased physical activity and improved dietary choices can bring down blood pressure, lower stress levels, and significantly reduce the chance of experiencing stroke or heart attack. Not only as NurseStrong nurses are we making a conscious effort to improve our personal health outcomes, but we’re inviting our communities along for the journey.
After the NurseStrong 5km Walk and the newspaper interview I ended up doing a late-night double shift, I worked for over eighteen hours straight and I slept only three hours in nearly two days. This is exactly why nurses need to look after themselves. Because of my NurseStrong preparation and participation I had a fridge full of healthy meals and the requisite energy to get me through my extended shift. In the middle of the night on that late-night double, when the ward was relatively quiet and the doctors were all at home asleep, we were assessing and managing pain and breathing, we were repositioning people who couldn’t reposition themselves, we were there when no one else was. That is why we need to take care of ourselves, that is why we need to be NurseStrong.
If you want to improve your own health and wellbeing we encourage you to join our NurseStrong Facebook group where nurses around the country are sharing advice and support.