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Penny Heidke

Tough duty makes it hard for nurses to model good health

Shiftwork, long hours and family commitments have been identified by a Queensland researcher as the key barriers preventing nurses from being true role models for healthy lifestyles.

A survey of Bundaberg-based nurses carried out by associate lecturer in nursing at the Central Queensland University, Penny Heidke, also found that despite smoking at lower levels than the wider population, many respondents reported not exercising at levels considered healthy.

Heidke reported that while nurses included healthier levels of fruits and vegetables in their diets, they also consumed more alcohol than the wider population and less than half of respondents rated their own health as either ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ – a rate lower than the general population.

“More than half rated themselves as overweight [but BMI showed that even more than that were overweight or obese – more like two-thirds],” Heidke said. “This suggests registered nurses are similarly prone to underestimate their health risks associated with their weight as most other Australians.”

Heidke said almost all participants in the study acknowledged that the role of the RN is highly important in health education. However, she added, this did not always equate to the giving of regular advice on healthy behaviours.

“The participants were divided almost equally on whether those who engage in unhealthy behaviours are less likely to provide health education to their patients,” Heidke said. “Issues around hypocrisy and the importance of role-modelling emerged from responses.

“More than 90 per cent of participants who did not give regular health education adhered to two or less of the healthy guidelines themselves, suggesting those not adhering to the guidelines are less likely to give health education.”

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