Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

'Do as I Say, but Not as I Do': Are Next Generation Nurses Role Models for Health?

Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

'Do as I Say, but Not as I Do': Are Next Generation Nurses Role Models for Health?

Article excerpt


nurses; health; physical activity; lifestyle


Aim: Promoting healthy lifestyles plays a key role in professional nursing yet nurses do not always practice what they preach. Efforts are currently being made to improve the health of NHS staff, yet little is known about the health and lifestyle behaviours of pre-registration nurses in the UK although these individuals are our next generation of NHS employees. The aim of this study was to investigate the health behaviours and wellbeing of pre-registration nurses based at an acute NHS teaching hospital in England.

Methods: In this cross-sectional questionnaire survey, 325 pre-registration nurses (50% response rate) completed a health and lifestyle questionnaire, measuring levels of physical activity, smoking and alcohol behaviour, dietary practices and general health.

Results: Age ranged from 19-53 years, and 96% of the sample was female. More than half of the sample did not meet public health recommendations for physical activity. Just under one-fifth were current smokers and over three-quarters did not consume five servings of fruit/ vegetables per day. Two-thirds reported exceeding the recommended maximum daily alcohol intake and around one third were classified as either overweight or obese. Those who were physically inactive were less likely to report good general health, good dietary practices and more sleep, and were more likely to report cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption than their active counterparts.

Conclusions: This study indicates that the health profile of pre-registration nurses is relatively poor, and that those who are sedentary engage in other negative lifestyle behaviours also. Despite significant education relating to health promotion and health behaviours of patients being targeted at pre-registered nurses, it seems that this knowledge is not always transferred to their own behaviour. There is a need for timely intervention to establish healthy lifestyle behaviours amongst nurses early in their career.


Recent government publications emphasise the role of the public sector, and in particular the NHS, in promoting healthy lifestyle choices among the general population and setting the benchmark for workplace health and well-being.1-4 Ensuring NHS staff take responsibility for their own health and act as good role models for healthy living is considered imperative for the successful delivery of government health policy.5-6 In particular, nurses, who constitute the largest occupational group in the NHS and have the most direct contact with patients and their families,7-8 are often seen as a point of reference for healthy behaviours.9-11. Therefore, the promotion of healthy practices among NHS nurses has become a key priority in the delivery of UK government health policy.3-4 Indeed, a recent independent review of the health and well-being of NHS staff recommends that all NHS organisations provide health and well-being services that are centred on the prevention of lifestyle and work-related ill health of their frontline staff.12

Although one might expect individuals who are educated and working in health promotion roles to exhibit an improved personal health profile when compared with other professions,13 research has shown that nurses often exhibit poor lifestyle behaviours themselves, and a variety of explanations have been proposed, such as exposure to workrelated stressors and shift-work, which may result in neglect of nurses own health needs.7,14-15 Nurses around the globe tend to have higher rates of smoking prevalence than both the general population and other health professionals (up to 45-57%).11,16-21 Low levels of physical activity have been observed with many nurses not meeting government recommended levels for physical activity15,22-24 and demonstrating levels of activity lower than those shown in other medical occupations.19 Poor dietary practices are evident15,24 with several studies showing that many nurses regularly consume high fat foods23-25 and estimates suggest around 700,000 of the 1. …

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