Baby Steps to Health!

Sheila St. Cyr, MS, RN-BC is a Controlled Substance Diversion Prevention Specialist at OU Medicine, Inc. in Oklahoma City, OK. Sheila is pictured above after completing her first 5K!

The American Nurses Association (ANA) defines a healthy nurse as “one who actively focuses on creating and maintaining a balance and synergy of physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, personal, and professional wellbeing.” As nurses, we are very good at taking care of others, but sometimes miss opportunities to care for ourselves. During my time as an oncology nurse early in my career, I quickly learned from my mentors that caring for yourself first allows you to better care for your patients. For the nursing professional development practitioner, we would be better able to care and provide for the nursing staff we interact with if we practice this same philosophy.

Looking back on my career as a nurse, I did not always take care of myself first and I can readily admit now that it led to unhealthy lifestyle habits. Taking that first step towards healthy habits and caring for “me” first was difficult. I took many baby steps in changing some of my habits and created a more positive routine for myself. Along the way, I discovered that taking those small steps to healthiness allowed me to be better able to care for family, friends, peers, and co-workers. I was able to accomplish things I never would have thought possible, such as running 5K races and even coming in first in my age category a few times, including running a race on my 50th birthday!

When reviewing the ANA’s Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation Grand Challenge, they really are looking at five health focus areas: physical activity, sleep, nutrition, quality of life, and safety. As nurses, we were all taught about the importance of meeting these basic needs for a healthy life. I think it is important for NPD practitioners to not only role model how to be a professional nurse, but also role model how to be a healthy nurse. For me, many of the baby steps I took were in these areas of focus. For physical activity, I set that goal to be able to run a 5K. I downloaded an app on my iPhone to help me train. I started taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator and I got out from behind my computer a couple of times a day and went for a brisk walk. It is amazing how making just a few changes can bump up your energy level and increase your attention span or focus. Today I try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. However, if I do not get it in, I do not let that get me down.   

The second area I made changes to was in the nutrition realm. I, like many other women in the United States, have tried every diet under the sun. So instead of “dieting,” I leaned on my nursing knowledge about nutrition and established healthier eating habits. All of those things we know about—drinking lots of water, eating several servings of fruits and vegetables every day, cutting back on processed and fatty foods, and eating lean meats. Now, don’t get me wrong… I still love my sweets, potato chips, French fries and lots of pasta. I just choose to eat them in moderation and not every day. 

My third area of focus was quality of life. I love the saying by Abraham Lincoln, “It is not the years in your life that counts, it’s the life in your years.” During my years of working oncology, I took care of many end-of-life patients. Some of them led long, fruitful, and family-filled lives. These patients had no regrets as they were dying. Unfortunately, others voiced regrets of, “I wish I would have done…” or “I wish I would have spent more time doing…” Just like we want our patients to have great quality of life, so should we. Spend time with family and friends, laugh out loud, sing in the shower, play with grandkids, travel… life is too short not to enjoy it with those we love and doing the things we love. I lost my father to COPD and CHF on October 25, 2014. I had my own regrets of, “I wish I would have…” So today, I take those opportunities for my family and myself. My mental health and well-being are far better and I am more equipped to meet the needs of my role at work. 

Do you want to learn more about Healthy Nurse research and resources? Visit the ANA website to learn more about healthy sleep, healthy weight, men and women’s health, plus many more topics:  https://www.nursingworld.org/practice-policy/hnhn/.

I love how ANA makes the following statement on their website: “Just think, if all 4 million registered nurses increase their personal wellness and support some of their family, community, co-workers, and patients to do the same, what a healthier world we would live in.” That is a powerful statement indeed!  Join me in taking baby steps to increase your personal wellness and health! Want to take some morning or lunch break walks at the ANPD Conference in Lake Buena Vista? Just let me know and I would be honored and happy to join you!

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