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Travel Nurses and Diabetes: Are You at Risk?


It’s no secret that nursing is considered a high-stress job. Ironically, many nurses who advocate well-being and proper care to their patients don’t always take their own advice, with repercussions beyond stress. A University of Maryland School of Nursing study found that 55 percent of the 2,103 female nurses surveyed were obese, citing workplace stress, lack of sleep and long, irregular work hours as top explanations. Obesity is a risk factor for developing diabetes.

A follow-up study specifically highlighted this “adverse work schedule” as the underlying factor tied to obesity, perpetuated by a lack of opportunity for exercise as well as sleep. Here again, 55 percent of the nurses were considered overweight or obese.

Nurses and Diabetes: Are You at Risk?

Authors of both studies recommend a handful of strategies for combatting this trend on the job:

  • Resting or moving: Pacing the corridors of a hospital all day, every day, seems like plenty of physical activity for a practicing nurse, but the data suggests otherwise. And, even quick naps, when possible, can help reverse unhealthy habits.
  • Advocating alternative and convenient food choices: Supporting onsite farmers’ markets or delivery of nutritious selections of can also encourage colleagues to follow suit
  • Encouraging nurse wellness ideas: Friendly team competitions, walking buddies, prizes and recipe exchanges can be great ways to boost motivation and incentive--as well as morale.
  • Staying positive: Reward yourself for good work, and remember that taking care of yourself will boost attitude toward patient care as well.
  • Requesting extra support: Expressing interest to hospital leadership to improve schedules and promote healthier choices.

The reality is that 9.3 percent of the American population has type 2 diabetes--and 85.2 percent of these people, including healthcare professionals, are overweight or obese, according to the American Diabetes Association. Even more startling, as many as 1 in 3 American adults will have diabetes by 2050 if present trends continue.

The good news is that taking steps--literally--to improve a generally sedentary lifestyle, and reversing a poor diet, can decrease this prevalence of diabetes. Equally important, is prioritizing enough rest--at least 7 hours in a 24-hour period, if possible. Poor nutrition, fitness and sleep habits can create a vicious cycle for nurses. Sleep-deprived nurses are more likely to make poor dietary choices, leading to an increased likelihood for obesity and ultimately a higher risk for complications such as type 2 diabetes.

Small changes are key for implementing bigger changes, and for nurses on the go, there are some quick fixes. A new study reveals that the risk of actually developing diabetes is cut by 13 percent just by eating two homemade meals per day. While food prep time may seem like an inconvenience, a little planning can go a long way and can help reverse the obesity and diabetes trend--benefiting nurses and their patients, who often look to nurses to lead by example.

If you’re interested in learning more about travel nursing, visit our Travel Resources page.

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