This post was written by C3 network member, Dr Steve Boorman, and originally published on Empactis’ website on 21 June 2019.
As a long-standing supporter and admirer of the C3 Collaborating for Health charity, I readily accepted an invitation this week to attend the launch of a new film dedicated to improving nurses’ health and helping them achieve healthier lifestyles.
C3 campaigns tirelessly to reduce the global burden of disease that occurs due to adverse lifestyle behaviours – eating and drinking too much, smoking and a lack of physical activity. These unhealthy habits underpin many chronic diseases that not only result in suffering to individuals, but also represent a high cost to the economy.
IMPROVING NURSES HEALTH
The charity’s latest campaign, Nursing You, focuses on the fact that our health professionals are not always healthy. A recent Nursing Standard poll of 1,905 nurses revealed that:
- 1 in 4 nurses are overweight – the same as the general population of England
- 59% work an entire shift with no access to a drink of water
- 57% report no access to healthy food at work
- 75% work their shift without a break
- 58% believe their manager is unconcerned about their wellbeing
These alarming facts do not surprise me. In a much wider survey in 2009, when I was researching the strong association between good patient care and good staff health, I discovered very similar things. Successive Health Secretaries and NHS leaders have accepted the recommendations from this work.
Yet the reality remains the same: The NHS is often an unhealthy place to work.
Breaks away from the ward are difficult and combined with long shifts and staffing pressures, make a healthy lifestyle challenging to achieve. There are many contributing factors that do not help:
- Grateful patients and relatives often give cakes and chocolates to health staff
- Many nurses snack on sugary treats to maintain energy levels
- Canteens are often closed at the only time they can take a break
- Energy for additional physical activity is hard to find at the end of long shifts
- Nicotine or alcohol are often used as coping mechanisms
- Shift working can make establishing regular sleep patterns a challenge
This is not good for health staff or patients – and it can be a vicious circle that leads to declining health and loss of energy to devote to patient care.
NEW “NO YEAH BUTS” FILM EXPLORES HOW NURSES CAN COPE BETTER WITH STRESS AND FATIGUE
Made by nurses for nurses, “No Yeah Buts” is the title of the new film launched by C3 with Human Story Theatre and Nice Tree Films. The powerful film explores the stress, anxiety and fatigue of busy health professionals and the risks of adopting unhealthy coping mechanisms. The objective of the campaign is to encourage nurses to consider their own health. Watch the full film here:
Accompanying the film, with the support of a commercial sponsor, is an innovative “Nursing You” app, which can be downloaded from the Nursing You website. This self-help app is free for nurses. It is designed to encourage them to prioritise their own health and seek the support from managers to make key changes at their organisation.
I have been fortunate to be supported by Empactis in continuing to work regularly with NHS leaders, developing approaches to improve staff health and wellbeing. With approaching 1.3 million workers, the NHS is one of the world’s largest employers. Its staff has huge influence, touching millions of lives every day. Yet as one nurse says in the film: “We can talk about death, but fat is taboo.”
When we board an aircraft, we are clearly instructed to “fit your own oxygen mask before helping others.” First aiders are taught to consider personal danger before rushing to assist, yet culturally, we still don’t have this at the heart of healthcare.
“No Yeah Buts” reminds us we still have work to do to ensure we care about our carers.