Work environment challenges nurses trying to adopt healthy behaviors

Changing multiple behaviors is difficult in high stress occupations with demanding schedules such as nursing, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior


Philadelphia, October 8, 2018

Research among nurses reports fewer than 10 percent meet physical activity guidelines and eat a healthy diet. The American Nurses Association underscored this issue by declaring 2017 as the Year of the Healthy Nurse. A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that despite providing pedometers, a smartphone app, and access to a Facebook group, study participants were unable to change their diet and physical activity levels at the same time.

“The complexity of nurses’ working environment limits the number of workplace programs to help them achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle,” said lead author Luciana Torquati, PhD, School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. “This study’s aim was to evaluate and understand key factors to overcome the barriers to creating programs to help them change unhealthy behaviors.”

This study recruited 47 nurses working directly in emergency rooms, intensive care units, or inpatient facilities at two metropolitan hospitals in Australia. The majority were female and working full time, and more than half were working at least one overnight shift. An initial assessment of participants included body measurements and questionnaires about self-rated health, interest in adopting healthier behaviors, and available social support. Participants were requested to wear an accelerometer for seven consecutive days. The nurses were asked to set realistic health goals, focusing on small and sustainable changes to their diet and physical activity levels.

To support their goals during the three-month intervention, a variety of tools were provided including a pedometer, smartphone app, and Facebook group. At the end of three months participants completed questionnaires, measurements were taken, and they were again asked to wear an accelerometer to track duration and intensity of physical activity. Similar data were gathered after six months to determine if any progress had been sustained.

After the intervention, fruit and vegetable intake significantly increased, while physical activity slightly decreased. The feedback indicated it was easier to change diet than to become more physically active. The tools to facilitate change were only partially used by the nurses participating with very few posts made to the Facebook group or shared in the app. This resulted in social support among participants being lower than expected with minimal encouragement among colleagues.

Some of the reasons given for not participating included lack of time, the material provided was not appealing, or they preferred an alternate weight loss program. Other feedback included having meal plans available and adding individual consultations to monitor progress. Nurses did feel that participation in the study increased their awareness of their eating habits and lack of physical activity.

“There was a discrepancy between what nurses said they wanted during the study and what they were prepared to do,” said Dr. Torquati. “Future studies should take into consideration a person’s primary motivation plus readiness to change when creating strategies.”

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Notes for editors
The article is “Changing Diet and Physical Activity in Nurses: A Pilot Study and Process Evaluation Highlighting Challenges in Workplace Health Promotion,” by Luciana Torquati, PhD; Tracy Kolbe-Alexander, PhD; Toby Pavey, PhD; and Michael Leveritt, PhD (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2017.12.001). It will appear in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, volume 50, issue 10 (November 2018) published by Elsevier.

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732 238 3628 or jnebmedia@elsevier.com to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the authors please contact Dr. Luciana Torquati at +61 40 497 5707 or l.torquati@uq.edu.au.

An audio podcast featuring an interview with Dr. Luciana Torquati and information for journalists are located at www.jneb.org/content/podcast. Excerpts from the podcast may be reproduced by the media; contact Eileen Leahy to obtain permission.

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB)
The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with an interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues, and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promote healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the society’s efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies, and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policy makers, targeted audiences, and the public.

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice, and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension, and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society's official journal, JNEB also includes occasional policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications. www.jneb.org

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps institutions and professionals advance healthcare, open science and improve performance for the benefit of humanity. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support and professional education, including ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, more than 38,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray's Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX Group, a global provider of information and analytics for professionals and business customers across industries. www.elsevier.com

Media contact
Eileen Leahy
Elsevier
+1 732 238 3628
jnebmedia@elsevier.com