Maintaining Healthy Habits as a Nurse

Kind of an ironic title given that when you think of nurses/nursing you think of good health. Unfortunately though, I hear from a ton of nurses, and nursing students, how it’s so hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The hours themselves are long, and usually the work is pretty exhausting. Even on days that aren’t busy at the hospital, I still come home feeling exhausted for whatever reason. I mean, it’s hard work. There isn’t really a way around that!

I work as a RN in a medical intensive care unit (MICU). It was my first job out of nursing school; I started there in March 2016. While there are so many things I could cover within nursing, for now I’m going to cover how I balance an overall healthy lifestyle with work as this seems to be the most commonly asked question–how I plan my meals on days that I work and how I fit my workouts in.

So, I work day shift(only); I am NOT a night shift person LOL. However, I have worked night shift before and I do have a blog post on how I balance my workouts and eating during those shifts (read about that here).

You may know that as far as workouts go, I follow Paosfitworld’s guide. So, after work I do one of her workouts. Several of her workouts only take 25-35 minutes so I usually pick one of these workouts to do after a nursing shift. Therefore, I usually do arms & abs, or a shoulder & back workout. These workouts from her guide are typically pretty quick and aren’t hard on the body. For example, I would never do leg day after a 12 hour shift–talk about torture! So yes, I still workout after work but I do an easier and shorter workout. I sometimes will workout before work. For me, working out after work has just become a habit, but if you’re a big morning person then get your workout in beforehand! Anytime I do that I am always grateful that I got it out of the way.

Since I workout 6x a week, I pretty much always take my rest day on a day that I work. If I work 3 days in a row, I usually take my rest day on my last shift. After 3 shifts my body is pretty exhausted and I’m not really up for a workout. If my shifts are scattered throughout the week, it just depends. Maybe one day I have an extra exhausting shift so I choose to make that my rest day. Or, I have plans one night after work so I make that my rest day instead. Just depends! Also as a disclaimer, you do not need to workout 6x a week. That is just what I do but working out 5x a week won’t kill you–this way it’s just 1 workout you have to get in after a 12 hour shift. Just do what feels right for your body!

I will say, I am extremely lucky in that I have a very convenient apartment gym that I go to. I’ll be honest, if I had to drive to go to the gym after work it would be a huge pain in my ass. I mean, I’d do it, BUT, it definitely wouldn’t be as easy. In this case, I would suggest two options. One being packing your gym clothes and a snack, and going straight to the gym from work (and again, choose a quick & “easy” workout). The other option is to just workout at home those days! Paola’s guide has at home exercises (in her “plus” version), and there are lots of other guides, or you tube videos that have workouts you can do at home. Again, it doesn’t have to be a super strenuous workout. 20-30 minutes is great.

Regarding eating. On days that I work I plan/pack all my food from breakfast, lunch and snacks. This way, I know exactly what I’m eating throughout the day and I know that I am hitting my macros. Whether you count macros or not, I highly recommend packing all of your food. This helps ensure that you stay on track and that you’re eating healthier options and getting your proper nutrients in. I know a lot of nurses say that they are often tempted by treats or food that is brought into work. I am very familiar! Sometimes I will partake and just put whatever in my macros, but overall, I find if I bring plenty of snacks and food for the day that I’m not as tempted.

Overall, forming and maintaining healthy habits on a nurses schedule takes some habit, discipline, and motivation. I know it’s not fun or ideal working out after a 12 hour shift, but you have to decide what your priorities are. If you have specific fitness goals that you want to achieve, then working out post nursing shift is just going to be part of your weekly grind–get over it! πŸ˜‰ If you’re working out more to just de-stress, or instill some healthier habits, then you don’t need to break your back in getting to the gym after work (just my opinion). In the end, we all have different things that are important to us, so you just have to decide what yours are. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. Trust me, I don’t think any less of anyone who doesn’t workout after a nursing shift πŸ™‚ But hopefully these are some helpful tips for those who want to incorporate a weekly workout & eating routine with a nurses schedule!

Thanks for reading guys! Was this helpful?! Let me know! And nurses/future nurses, what else do you want to hear about on this topic?

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17 thoughts on “Maintaining Healthy Habits as a Nurse

  1. I feels like this blogpost gives me the exact answers I needed I’m an ICU Nurse in Germany and I struggle a lot with nutrition, sleep and working out enough with the crazy schedule I have. I’m glad you shared your story and give advice on how you stick to your routine. πŸ™‚ maybe I can adjust some of my habits so I that I can finally be healthier and stronger again! Love love love your blog and Instagram! Greeting from Germany -written during night shift πŸ™ˆπŸ™ˆπŸ™ˆ-

    1. Hiii! Thanks so much for following along πŸ™‚ I’m glad that this was helpful. And bless you for working night shift, I know how tough that can be. Good luck with everything–you can do it!!

  2. I am so thrilled that you chose to write this post! Thank you for being so responsive! I appreciate hearing what you do for a living — it’s an intense and demanding job and to know that you manage to prioritize your workouts must mean that I should be able to, as well. If you’re willing to expand the content of your posts a little, I would love to know more about your transition from school to work and how you maintained your physical/mental/social health during what I imagine was a stressful time. I’m preparing to graduate in December and would love to step right into critical care (MICU is my DREAM) so I’m hungry for all the information I can find! Again, thank you SO, so much for creating this content!

    1. Hey Samantha! Thanks so much for taking the time to read!! I’m glad you felt like it was helpful πŸ™‚ A few others have also asked me to expand on the transition from school to work so I definitely plan to do that soon! Good luck with finishing up school, and getting your dream job! MICU is tough (lots of deaths, and sick patients) but it has it’s rewarding moments!

  3. I’m a medical-surgical float pool nurse in IL! I found this extremely helpful and it made working out after work seem so much more do-able. My problem is that somedays I get so so crazy busy that I barely have time to go to the bathroom, let alone, eat. I bring snacks all the time and try to eat at my station when I can, but some days I find that it’s already 3pm and all ive had is a protein bar all day. Do you have any tips for those crazy busy, pull your hair out kinda days?

    1. Props to you girl! I don’t think I could handle the patient load on med surg! But I feel you, there are definitely days where it’s difficult to go to the bathroom, let alone eat. On these days though, I usually ask another nurse for help (if I’m that swamped) or just step away for a few minutes to recollect myself. For me, if I haven’t eaten anything I feel like my thinking isn’t clear and I’m not providing the best care. I think the best thing is to just take a moment to regroup and and eat your snack quickly–even if it’s literally 2 minutes. Sometimes you just need to take that time!

  4. THANK YOU for sharing this! I currently work as an Ortjodontic assistant while going to school part-time, and applying to PA school! This is really helpful for
    Me now and I can see how I can take the same tips you shared when I go back to school full-time and once I (hopefully) become a PA! Love love love your IG and blog – just bought Pao’s HIIT guide going to purchase the full SSBM soon!

    1. Of course! Thanks so much for taking the time to read. I’m glad it was helpful! Good for you girl, I know you are super busy, but like you said, hopefully some of these tips can help you find a good routine between it all. Good luck! And thanks so much for your support and following along!! Xx

  5. Hey Claire! I love reading your blog and following you in IG! I am actually in the process of changing my career for nursing. It’s a big decision and one I am very nervous but excited about. Do you have any advice for me? How did you know that nursing was the right fit for you? Do you enjoy nursing as a career and could you explain what a week looks like for you? Sorry for a million questions! I appreciate it πŸ™‚

    1. Hey! Thanks so much!! And that is awesome. I know the feeling, it can definitely be nerve wracking to make such a change but it’s exciting too! And I honestly didn’t know whether it would be a good fit or not lol, I kind of went into it on a whim haha. But! I will say that the great thing with nursing is that there are SO many different types/areas that if you don’t like one area you can always move to another. Overall it’s a great career with a lot of flexibility. Sometimes its hard because I work in an ICU and lots of days nursing is kind of a “thanks-less” job. But I also think that’s because of the area I work in. There are lots of areas that have much more gratification! If that makes sense. A typical week for me is working 3, 12 hour shifts πŸ™‚

  6. Just reading this but SO GOOD! I’m a nursing major and I’ve already found that balancing school/work/working out is hard but worth it! Thanks for such good advice lady!!

  7. Hi Claire! I am considering a career in nursing and LOVED this! I love hearing about how you balance your health and your career but would also just love to read more on your experiences as a nurse! Hard to find some honest relatable blogging content out there on nursing (probably rightfully so though busy saving lives and all ;P)
    Thanks for sharing all that you do! I love reading your entries.

    1. Hey girl! Thanks so much!! Did you read my post on nursing: the good, bad and ugly? I think that may be helpful!! Or do you just mean more posts in general? Thanks for your support πŸ™‚

  8. I️ work MICU/SICU as well and definitely needed to read this post. The days are SO draining. My friends and coworkers who are icu nurses as well were just talking about how to get our workouts in on a regular basis especially with work. But…priorities it is! Thank you so much for sharing. Just now finding your IG and Blog and I’m looking forward to reading more.

    1. Hey! Yeah it’s definitely tough but at the end of the day, you prioritize! Props to you guys for getting those workouts in!! Nice to hear all of that from fellow nurses too πŸ™‚

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