In August, we covered the 60-day nutrition pilot program Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation Grand Challenge (HNHN), that is designed to help nurses eat better and improve their eating habits with healthier food options. At three of its locations, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) made sure that its nurses were able to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables they ate daily by getting Simply-to-Go foods, which are healthful, fresh, seasonal, as well as locally sourced.

The program ran for 60 days, starting on June 13. We checked in with Dana Foster, BSN, RN, CEN, a nurse at the MUSC, and Andrea Coyle, MSN, MHA, RN, NE-BC, Professional Excellence and Magnet Program Director at the MUSC, to see how things turned out.

What did you do as a part of the challenge? How did your eating habits change?

Foster: During the challenge, I focused on my snacking habits at work and making better food choices overall. I now opt for the portioned Simply-to-Go fruit and veggie snacks instead of purchasing a bag of chips or candy. During busy shifts, I’ll grab a premade salad for lunch instead of a slice of pizza.

What differences did you notice in yourself? Did you have more energy? Did you lose weight? What happened?

Foster: I have generally been a healthy eater. What I struggle with is being prepared during busy times. I am in a full-time graduate program for my DNP and work as an RN. Sometimes, I just don’t have time to meal prep. Having the healthy options right at my fingertips at work set me up for success on days I didn’t bring a lunch or snacks.

Do you think that you’ll continue with the changes you made in these 60 days?

Foster: I think knowing that there are consistently healthy options in the cafeteria will ease my mind when I am at work without home-prepared snacks and food.

Why do you think that nurses tend to put their health on the back burner? Why do they need to take care of themselves like they do their patients?

Foster: Nurses are naturally compassionate towards others, and we tend to put patients’ needs in front of our own. For example, even if I am hungry, if I have patients that need my care, I feel they deserve my attention first. To go along with that, shifts get BUSY. In the emergency room, where I work, we are constantly working up, running diagnostics on, and treating our patients. There is rarely a “good time” to do self-care practices on breaks. However, nurses are examples to our patients, which is why we need to practice what we preach. The public consistently ranks nurses as the most trusted profession, and our patients look to us for guidance and direction.

Coyle: Nurses are natural caregivers. We want the best for our patients and go above and beyond the call of duty, even if it means neglecting our own health and well-being. However, when you don’t take the time to care for yourself, you will lack the energy to provide care, work demanding shifts, and maintain an overall quality of life.

Why is this kind of program so important?

Foster: In this day and age, we go for what’s easiest and most convenient. It is so important to give people options that are healthy and easy to grab on the go.

Coyle: Promoting healthy life choices among nurses is critical. When you are in health care, you serve as a role model for patients and families. The value of this program is to positively influence care team members along with the community that we serve to make healthy choices.

Michele Wojciechowski

Michele Wojciechowski is an award-winning writer and author of the humor book Next Time I Move, They’ll Carry Me Out in a Box.

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