When you think about the profession of nursing, what comes to mind?
Perhaps, you think about the high demand for nurses and the emotional and monetary rewards of this line of work. Perhaps, you think about the personality traits—firm yet gentle, methodical but patient. Or perhaps, you think about how much a nurse needs to study to stay on top of the constant advances in medical knowledge.
Yet one thing you probably don’t even consider is the level of physical fitness you need to be a good nurse. Let’s take a look at this from two angles: first, how to stay fit and healthy for the job; second, exactly why it’s necessary.
How to Stay In Great Shape
- Exercise: As a nurse, you should exercise to build strength, increase stamina, and enhance flexibility. You can use different routines for each of these benefits, like weight lifting, swimming, and stretching. You can also try to use a discipline like yoga which provides all three benefits. Additionally, like a long-distance runner, your feet are the most vulnerable to injury since you are on your feet all day long. Wear and tear on your feet could result in a variety of foot problems, and if you do have issues like Plantar Fasciitis, it may be necessary to use custom orthotics. Other issues that should not be ignored are arch pain, arthritis, calluses, shin splints, and bunions. Find the best way to prevent these issues from becoming worse.
- Diet: You need to stay well-hydrated during the course of the day and to eat at least 3 balanced meals a day, with protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. You may also need to take vitamin and mineral supplements to ensure a strong immune system.
- Rest and recuperation: Nursing is mentally and physically exhausting, so it’s a good idea to have a regular sleep schedule and get the hours of sleep you need. If, for instance, you need 8 hours of deep sleep to feel refreshed, staying up late at night to watch TV or spending time with the family and only getting 6 hours of sleep a night will cause sleep deprivation problems that could seriously impact your health.
The Physical Demands of Nursing
At this point, you might be thinking, “I’m a nurse, not an athlete, isn’t all this physical fitness advice a little over the top?”
Here are 6 reasons why you need to stay in great shape:
- Physical strength: You will need to have the physical strength to lift patients onto a bed using a safe lifting technique to protect the patient as you move them to a comfortable position. You will need physical strength to move and set up heavy medical equipment. You will also need physical strength for an emergency procedure like CPR.
- Stamina: You will need stamina because you will be walking with patients from one place to another, bathing them, and changing them. It won’t help patients if you’re wheezing after walking up a flight of steps with a patient, or your arms are so tired from some earlier activity that you can’t sponge them down during a bath.
- Flexibility: You will need flexibility because you will be bending and twisting quite a bit as you help patients sit up in bed, help them walk, and so on.
- Alertness: You will need to notice what’s going on around you if you are in a surgical unit, hear patients who are mumbling, and communicate doctor’s orders in a firm tone to bad patients. You will also need to have clear communication skills when giving instructions to a family on how to manage a patient’s illness when they get home.
- Healthy feet: You will need healthy feet because you will be on your feet most of the day, and if you’re struggling with, say, bunions, the whole day can be awful. If you work in an emergency unit or in a surgical unit, you will need to be quick on your feet.
- Strong immune system: You will be surrounded by people with all kinds of illnesses, many of them infectious, and if your own immune system is down due to insufficient sleep, a poor diet, or dehydration, you are vulnerable to getting ill. You have to take appropriate steps to boost your immune system.
Nursing is a rewarding profession that requires more than excellent study skills and a wonderful personality to help people struggling with debilitating illnesses. It's also important to be mindful of the importance of staying in great shape to cope with the many diverse physical demands of the job.