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'Is being a nurse ruining your health?'


Recently I’ve been a bit of a mess; I’ve let work get on top of me and have been juggling those personal things that just seem to crop up at inconvenient times

This means that this student nurse has been neglecting herself a little.

I’ve put on three stone in a very short space of time. I’ve stopped running (I ran a half marathon in October - you wouldn’t know it now) and I’ve stopped having fun.

I work, sleep and eat a bit too much.

“As students and nurses we know we must look after ourselves but it is too easy to be tired and grumpy”

As students and nurses we know we must look after ourselves but it is too easy to be tired and grumpy. It’s easy to just throw a jar of sauce into a pan and eat crisps as a snack instead of being prepared.

I love cooking - not baking which is far too precise for me - and in these last few weeks I’ve started taking a stronger interest in me. This sounds rather selfish but I don’t think it is in the long-run.

I’ve been cooking as much as possible which means I’m saving money and hopefully dropping a few pounds. I tend to buy a large chicken or pork shoulder and roast them. These are cheaper meats and there is often tons of leftovers. I can then use them in a homemade curry or stir fry. The other leftovers then get frozen or used for lunches.

Another money saving tip I’ve recently come across is Quorn mince. I put it in a chilli and honestly I can’t tell the difference. The chilli flavouring masks the fact it isn’t meat and it is so much cheaper. I’ve started using a bit less too, bulking the meal out with butter beans as well as kidney beans - all good protein and fantastic energy for a long 12-hour shift.

”I used to say I didn’t have time. I’d eat at my desk and then get back to work – but I’m definitely more productive once I’ve had a bit of a rest”

I’ve also started walking a bit more. Instead of driving to the local shop I’m walking there and sometimes at lunch I’ll take a relaxing walk around the park. I used to say I didn’t have time. I’d eat at my desk and then get back to work – but I’m definitely more productive once I’ve had a bit of a rest.

I’m sure I’m saving money by not buying junk food and planning my meals ahead. I’ve become a bit of a food bore because I’m planning each meal before a weekly shop. It definitely is keeping my piggy bank, as well as me, healthier.

I’ve also started to relax a bit and have a bit of fun. Where does a student nurse find the time you may ask. It can be done. Accept that invitation instead of making an excuse that you’re tired and binge watching House on Netflix. I find when I get out I actually do have the energy and staying at home was actually draining me.

”I am saying that we need to give ourselves a break sometimes”

I’m not saying eat healthy constantly, exercise loads and go out and party every night. I am saying that we need to give ourselves a break sometimes. I’m trying not to best myself up about my weight gain and it’s certainly hard to admit it in a public forum like this, too.

When we started university a lecturer joked that we’d be bulging out of our uniforms by third-year; she wasn’t wrong about many of us. It shouldn’t be like that and if our health is deteriorating consistently then it needs to be addressed, even though yes it’s hard to eat right and plan relaxation when you have a placement, exam and essay running in concurrence.

Have other students experienced a difficulty with weight gain? Are other universities tackling and addressing the benefits of staying healthy? I’d be interested to know because as nurses we need to be as healthy as we can and I’m convinced the structure of our course hinders this.

Vicki Abrahams is Student Nursing Times’ adult branch student editor

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Me and some other student nurses were commenting on this exact thing recently, how we have never been so large! My uniform from my first placement no longer zipped up for my third placement a year and a half later. It's quite comical, I suppose, but also on a more serious note, we are all aware of how our bodies and minds are so closely linked. For me, it's not just my physical health, but my mental health that has suffered too. I find it fairly hypocritical of education providers to teach us about promoting health etc, while knowingly subjecting their students to worsening health!

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  • Welcome to a most rewarding but demanding profession. I bought steamer to throw all those lovely veg in whilst having a bath. Use as many ploys as you can to maintain your health and selfish.
    You can care but have to care about yourself . Oh and an electric stew pot. Aside from that ladies...abit of fruit to munch on can help-particularly bananas on night duty. i switch the Tv off,put the phone of ..bliss.... what ever strategies work for yourself as we are good at strategising everyone else . Are we not !

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  • Hi Victoria. Thanks for sharing the experience of your struggle and your way through.

    As a mental health practitioner (not a nurse) I'm also familiar with the demands of a busy and relationship intense work life. It can easily eat into my self care in the ways you mentioned as well as others like being aware and staying patient with my children.

    As a way of helping you and many others who work in health care, I've put together a free 4 week online course. It teaches you about the 5 daily helpers you can adopt, which make you feel and cope better. Just click this link to find out more course

    It's easy to do and you can listen to the lessons in audio as well as read them. Choice is yours.

    Best wishes,

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