A pathway to a healthier you

Make healthy eating a team effort

Maintaining good nutrition as a nurse or midwife can be a challenge. Shift work, lack of time to prepare meals, food culture at work and fatigue can get in the way. But you can change the way you eat by bringing your colleagues along with you.

As an ANUM, Damien realised he had the ability to change the culture at work around food. 

Resisting tea room temptations

"There is always junk food at work – chips, biscuits, lollies. It’s hard to say no when its right in front of you, so I thought the first place to start was to try to encourage staff to replace these foods with healthier ones”.

Understand food cravings

Damien’s eating behaviours are common among nurses and midwives. When we are stressed and tired our food cravings increase. We tend to reach for fatty and sugary foods to give us energy and help us feel better. We might use food as a reward and to combat fatigue.  

It’s hard for me to find the time to prepare healthy meals. I come home from a late shift at 10pm and I’m way too tired to prepare something for the next day, so I often end up eating junk snacks in the tea room, or from the hospital café, where the foods options aren’t healthy.

Knowing what you should be doing – work gets in the way

“It’s not that I don’t know what healthy foods are. As nurses and midwives, we generally know this. But the stress of the job and fatigue get in the way, and I end up feeling guilty that I’m not eating to support my health.” 

It is often assumed that nurses and midwives look after themselves and eat well will engage because they are professionals. It may be expected that we are positive role models for our patients and promote positive lifestyle behaviors. But many aspects of the job interfere with our ability to do this. 

Start a program at work

With the support of his manager, Damien began a healthy eating program called “Reclaim the snacks”. Staff were encouraged to bring healthier foods to work to share. Incentives included fun prizes for the most colorful and healthy snacks. Flyers about healthy eating were posted in the tearoom and fruit was provided to staff each day. 

Make it fun, enjoy the benefits

Pretty soon, the culture of eating changed. The program was engaging and fun and staff began feeling better. “Changing our eating habits doesn’t fall solely on us as individuals. It’s a group effort, and everyone needs to help make that change. We are much more influenced by our environment than what we may realise.” Damien, ANUM.  

Strong personal motivation/intention was the first most important factor to achieve healthy eating at work but was often overpowered by barriers inherent in hospital nursing shift work.
Hospital and Shift Work Influences on Nurses’ Dietary Behaviors

Tips for better nutrition