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Patients matter most but staff matter too

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We all know that patients matter most but as Marie Manthey, one of the originators of primary nursing noted, “staff matter too”.

However nurses can struggle to adopt a healthy lifestyle with long 12-hour shifts and pressure to work unpaid overtime. They often skip meal breaks to ensure patients safety. On top of this nurses often feel undervalued in a pressurised system that challenges them to maintain standards in the face of increasing acuity and staff shortages.

Is it any wonder that some of the important lifestyle messages that we are supposed to opportunistically give patients fail to make it onto nurses’ personal agenda? We need a healthy workforce but nurses can struggle with health issues such as obesity. Research has shown that 70% of nurses in Scotland are overweight or obese and 59% in the UK.

These rates not only harm nurses’ health but as role models they can also reduce the impact of public health advice provided to patients. There is evidence that the general public has less confidence in advice about diet and exercise if it is provided by an overweight nurse.

“What role does stress play in unhealthy eating and lack of motivation to exercise?”

While the reasons for levels of obesity among nurses is unclear the problem has to be tackled and a novel approach has been highlighted in an article from our archive which suggests that while training nurses to deliver brief health promotion interventions to patients they may also be prompted to evaluate their own lifestyles. While these prompts are important, they are just the beginning of the process and employers need to consider how working practices are affecting staff lifestyle choices. What role does stress play in unhealthy eating and lack of motivation to exercise? What burden is it placing on mental health?

Nurses have a vital role in detecting underlying disease and the second article in this archive issue looks at opportunistic screening for atrial fibrillation. AF is a major risk factor for heart failure and stroke but it can be detected with a simple pulse check.

This can be carried out at every contact a nurse has with patients and those with an irregular pulse should be followed up with an ECG to diagnose the cause of the irregularity.

Understanding ECG monitoring can be daunting and anyone interpreting a rhythm must have appropriate training. The third article in this issue provides a guide to continuous ECG monitoring. It is the first part of a series that goes onto explore analysis of a rhythm strip and common arrhythmias and causes.

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