ANMJ Featured Story

Celebrate through life care

Wednesday 26th April, 2017

International Day of the Midwife and International Nurses Day, celebrated on 5 May and 12 May respectively, are when nurses and midwives are acknowledged for the job that they do and also thanked for the vital care they give to their patients, their patients’ families and each other. Yet while nurses and midwives are good at taking care of others, sometimes they can fall short of taking care of themselves. When celebrating nurses and midwives during May it is important to take time to acknowledge your own achievements as a nurse and/or a midwife, but also review what you are doing to care for yourself. Applying a few strategies could help you live more fulfilling, productive and happier lives, professionally and personally.

Need some inspiration? We’ve come up with some tips and stories to motivate you.



Whether you work a run of late/early shifts or nights, shift work can play havoc with your sleeping patterns. 

While the demands of shift work can make it impossible to get eight hours of sleep a night, experts suggest the quality of sleep rather than the time spent in bed is what is important. According to the Mayo clinic doing the following will give you a better night’s rest. 

Don’t go to bed either hungry or completely full as your discomfort might keep you up. Be mindful of nicotine, caffeine and alcohol at night.  The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can wreak havoc on quality sleep. Alcohol can make you feel sleepy at first but can disrupt sleep later in the night.

Create a bedtime ritual that you practise every night to tell your body it’s time to wind down. This may include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book or listening to music. These activities can promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness.

Ensure your room is ideal for sleeping such as making sure it is dark, quiet and cool. Room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs. Make sure your bed, pillow and coverings are most comfortable to you. 


Pose to improve the Body, Mind and Spirit

It’s a well-known fact that yoga can have a positive impact on the body including emotional and physical health as well as disease prevention. 

“Yoga and meditation are great ways to deal with workplace stress,” says Registered Nurse Jana Hnatova.

Jana, who works in the area of anaesthetics in Melbourne, discovered Ashtanga Yoga well over a year ago after she sustained an ankle injury from running. “I came across it quite accidently,” she says. 

Since then Jana, who now attends yoga classes four times a week, has noticed significant benefits of her practice that have helped her physically and emotionally, at work and in her personal life. 

This has included relief from ongoing lower back pain, she says. “Standing all day doing anaesthetics I would go home so sore and was getting massages to try and help relive that.  “I can honestly say in the past 12 months since practising yoga I haven’t had any troubles [with my lower back].”

Besides relieving back pain regular yoga practice is known to lessen musculoskeletal stiffness as well as improve flexibility and posture which can aid in the prevention of
work injuries. 

Prevention of heart disease, reducing blood pressure, controlling weight and strengthening bones to help prevent osteoporosis are also other known benefits.

Yoga can also help focus the mind, ease tension, help with concentration, improve energy levels and promote a feeling of calm. “It brings you to the space that you feel more relaxed,” Jana says.  

According to Jana this can be attributed to connecting with the breath while doing postures, which brings peace.

Being more conscious of the breath Jana now applies breathing awareness to stressful situations in her daily life. “When facing a stressful situation I now just stop and think about what I am doing and start breathing then I think ‘oh yeah this is really helping’. I’m much calmer because of it.”

Moving from South Australia to Victoria almost 12 months ago on her own, Jana has found yoga invaluable in helping deal with the stress of moving interstate and starting a new job. “I think the reason I stayed in Melbourne was because of yoga. If I hadn’t found this studio I don’t think I would still be here [in Melbourne]. I was considering going home but  going to the studio every night helped me to adjust. It has been something to look forward to.”

“I think all nurses should try yoga,” says Jana. “It really does take all your worries away.”


How nurses and midwives can prevent injury on the job

Bending, pushing, and lifting are regular movements nurses and midwives perform during a typical shift on the job. Unfortunately, the inherent demands of the profession can also lead to serious back and neck pain and other niggling injuries that impede the ability to work.

National Chair of the Australian Physiotherapy Association’s Occupational Health Group David Hall says injuries to nurses were so common back in the day that the concept of ‘nurses’ back’ emerged as a phenomenon. These days, workplaces are more progressive in implementing training programs and adhering to safe patient handling No Lift policies.

Mr Hall, who is also the Director of the Melbourne-based Productive Healthy Workplaces (PHW) Group, which specialises in keeping people fit, healthy, and injury free at work, said one of the biggest challenges nurses face in protecting their health on the job is time. “There can be a difference between what the policies say and how things are actually done on the ground and one of the greatest interactions with those policies is time.”


Mr Hall lists lower back pain, neck and shoulder pain, and knee problems as the most common injuries suffered by nurses. He said good manual handling techniques and the willingness to say no and choose a safer way when the task is too difficult are the keys to preventing injury. Being physically flexible and strong are also beneficial. Mr Hall suggests leading an active life and regular exercise such as walking, swimming, Pilates and yoga could prove beneficial to workplace health.

Watch out for fatigue

Nurses are on their feet for most of their shifts and thus endurance and standing tolerance become crucial. Mr Hall implored nurses to take their breaks when available and sit down to rest and give legs a chance to recover. “If they’re working while they’re tired what we’re finding is that all the manual handling techniques that they know and do reasonably well can suffer. In particular they [nurses] can start to keep their legs locked when they’re reaching and doing tasks.

“Physiotherapists see a lot of nurses not so much for the big heavy lifts and transfers, because those are the ones they really think about, but for the little things like reaching down to the ground to get a pen or tucking in a sheet in a bed.”


The importance of Gut Health

By Monique Eccles, Personal Trainer and founder of Nutritionally Grounded 

It’s well known that the demands of shift work make it hard to maintain a healthy diet. 

Shift work can significantly impact on nutritional intake of balanced protein, fats and carbohydrates. According to the Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, shift work causes poor dietary intake, smoking and weight gain, thereby leading to numerous gastrointestinal issues.

The Human Gastrointestinal Tract or (GIT) has an enormous impact on our health. The ‘Gut Flora’, officially known as Microbiota, encompasses over 70% of our immune system.It performs a multitude of tasks including regulating the toxic by-products of digestion, pathogenic bacteria, carcinogenic toxins and the cleaning and absorption of nutrients. Many diseases and conditions have been implicated in poor gut health, ranging from allergic manifestations, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel disease (IBS), colon cancer and obesity. 

A number of other causes, implicated in an imbalance of gut health, include antibiotics and particular medications. An unhealthy diet of trans fats, sugar, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, wheat and gluten not only lead to slow digestion and constipation, but can also be implicated in insulin resistance and weight gain.

The state of your microbiome can affect what kind of foods you crave, when you feel hungry, and how your food is metabolised. 

Stabilising your microbiome for better health is achievable (even for shift workers) through small changes in your diet. 

Rather than coffee and biscuits, or take away food on the way home, a small handful of blueberries and yoghurt may help sustain long shifts, while a bowl of homemade soup, with gut healing bone broth, can be easily made on a day off and frozen in order to package up and take to work.

Eating whole foods, including natural sources of probiotics and prebiotics, will help feed the good bacteria and stave of cravings and hunger pangs (generally the cause of poor snacking). Great sources of probiotics are fermented foods such as sauerkraut; kimchi and kefir, while good sources of prebiotics include asparagus, leeks, garlic, onion, tomatoes and radishes. 

Our gut microbiota are delicate and need time to heal, especially if they have been abused through continuous poor diet and/or medication. The best way to assist this process is to stick to a healthy diet with some of the above foods included, and reduce the amount of processed food and alcohol that potentially destroy good bacteria.

Finally, while difficult for shift workers, sleep is an amazing way to recuperate those damaged microbiome, so making sure that a regular pattern of sleep is maintained where possible can’t be underestimated.


Stretch To Prevent Injury

Stretching is paramount to avoiding injury and maintaining health in the workplace. A few key simple exercises can help nurses and midwives to keep top of their health.

1. Calf Stretches
Start with one foot in front of the other (as though walking) with the toes pointing forwards. Lean forward onto a support until a stretch is felt on the calf of the back leg. Hold position with the back knee straight for 20 seconds and ten bend the knee of the back leg and hold for a further 20 seconds. Repeat this twice each way. 

2. Standing Back Twist
Start by standing with a wide base of support. Cross your arms in front of you. Gently twist your upper body around to the left side as far as comfortable, hold the position momentarily, then twist your upper body around towards the right. Repeat the exercise 10 times in each direction, increasing movement as you go, and ensuring the movement is slow and feels natural. 

3. Shoulder Blade Retractions
This exercise helps improve posture by helping switching on the upper back muscles between your shoulder blades. Using a Theraband, stand upright as though standing to attention. Slowly stretch your arms back, rolling your shoulder blades together as you do so. Hold this end position to a count of three. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat 10 times. 


Apps can help you keep on track of your health and wellbeing goals. Here are a few to help you on your way.

Platform: android and coming in IOS soon

Want to create positive new habits to help you accomplish your goals? Do you have trouble keeping track of activities and goals, or reaching them? If so HabitHub could be the app for you.  According to app’s description HabitHub is based on Seinfeld’s productivity secret, which involves building habits over long streaks of days. These streaks that you build will motivate you to keep moving forward. The app works by creating a habit, marking the days on the calendar that you perform the habit and then building a chain. The task is to build a long streak of days for the habit you are working on. To help you reach these goals HabitHub lets you set daily reminders and even provides with graphs that help you stay motivated along your journey. The manufactures state that it will take a couple of months to build a solid habit and by being consistent and it will work.

Stop, Breath and Think
Platform: android, IOS and webFree or premium

Let’s face it; we all become exhausted, frustrated and overwhelmed from time to time but feeling calm in minutes is possible using the Stop, breath and think app. The app, which is very simple to use, urges you to stop what you are doing and check in with what you are thinking and how you are feeling before encouraging you to practice mindful breathing to create space between your thoughts emotions and reactions. The app then offers specific meditations on your results to broaden perspective and strengthen your force field of peace and calm.
Platform: IOS and android
Free or Premium plan $9.99/month

A great way to keep on track of diet and exercise goals is to use apps. Studies have shown people who use apps are more likely to keep on top of their health and fitness goals than non-users. There are thousands of diet and fitness apps available, but one that has been spruiked as the best in the industry is MyFitnessPal. The easy to navigate app, helps to determine your fitness and dietary goals and then helps you to keep on track by counting the number of calories consumed and expended through exercise. The app can track all major nutrients including calories, fat, protein, carbs, sugar, cholesterol as well as gives insights into where they are coming from and how to make healthier choices.


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