The American Nurses Association is challenging those who wear the white to step up and take care of someone else: themselves.

The ANA’s Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation (HNHN) Grand Challenge is an ambitious outreach effort to engage nursing improvement in five key aspects of wellness: activity, sleep, nutrition, quality of life, and safety. The challenge features a wealth of information and networking opportunities on the web at: https://bit.ly/2GK1Ezh.

Hospital Employee Health reached out to a nurse involved in this work, whose successful Ironman Triathlon was featured on the website: Charlene Moske-Weber, PhD, RN, an assistant professor in the school of nursing at Salem State University in Massachusetts.

HEH: How do your efforts fit into the larger goals of the American Nurses Association’s Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation initiative?

Moske-Weber: One of the concerns that I have is the disconnect that we have on how we teach students to take care of others but we neglect to emphasize the importance of them taking care of themselves. In my mind, care of others begins with care of self. That is something in nursing education I feel we really need to emphasize, particularly in this era of extreme stress that students undergo. Nursing programs in general are quite rigorous. Nationally, we have concerns with mental health, so stress management, sleep, and the other things are very important.

HEH: This has been a longstanding problem. Are you noticing any generational change in attitudes as new nurses come into the field?

Moske-Weber: Well, it’s interesting. I guess the answer to that is, sometimes. The demographics of our students here where I teach is anywhere from the traditional 22-year-old junior nursing student to the 60-year-old person who is coming back to school for a second career. I think with even the best of intentions students end up getting caught up in their studies, which they should. But I think nursing education has the responsibility to help them balance this a little more. It may be a little different than how we have been doing it for a very long time.

HEH: You describe more of a holistic approach to worker wellness. Is that a piece that has been missing?

Moske-Weber: It has, actually. We are working here in my nursing program on an introductory nursing course that would emphasize aspects of self-care and a balanced, holistic approach to being a nursing student. That knowledge would then hopefully transfer over to being a nurse. My seniors that are graduating say to me, “Your class was the only class that taught me how important it was to take care of myself.” Nursing school is rigorous. Students ought to be introduced to ways in which living well can assist them not only in their academic success, but as future nurses.

HEH: What are the next steps in this effort?

Moske-Weber: I am currently creating a wellness website for nursing students and faculty. In September, with the assistance of HNHN, I plan to work toward creation of an overall culture of health within the school of nursing. Like training for the Ironman, this process will require planning, effort, and perseverance. That is something that I am working on personally that I believe is so overdue. There just isn’t an opportunity — curricula are pretty much established and we have to answer to accrediting agencies. We need to incorporate some of these self-care concepts into existing curricula. My idea is to have a website for the school of nursing that students could refer to for information about stress management, healthy eating, and a few exercise and yoga videos — things along those lines. And it’s not just for the students, but also, dare I say, for faculty.

HEH: We have published many articles on nursing injuries, stress, and burnout. It sounds like what you are describing would address both physical and mental factors.

Moske-Weber: The students come in as one person and they leave as another. Hopefully when they leave they have both cognitive and practical knowledge in nursing on ways to prevent injuries and manage stress. We can’t really sugarcoat healthcare today. It is demanding and stressful.