Improving Nurses' Nutrition Focus of Pilot Program


A pilot program that seeks to improve the eating habits of nurses is under way at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC Health).

A pilot program that seeks to improve the eating habits of nurses is under way at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC Health).

The 60-day nutrition initiative offers MUSC Health staff members a new way to increase their daily fruit and vegetable consumption.

The health of the average nurse is worse than that of the average person living in the United States, according to the American Nurses Association (ANA).

Despite having vast knowledge about wellness, nurses’ diets tend to be 30% less nutritious.

Demanding shifts, occupational stress, and nurses routinely putting their own health and well-being last contribute to their diets, according to the ANA.

In fact, at MUSC, a recent survey found that 75% of its nurses put the health, safety, and wellness of patients ahead of their own.

Nearly half of MUSC nurses said that they eat fast food or similar quick meals at least 1 to 2 times each week, with almost a third of MUSC nurses consuming these types of meals 3 to 4 times a week, according to the ANA.

The survey also found that MUSC nurses typically eat 2 to 3 servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains daily, despite a United States Department of Agriculture recommendation of 3 to 5 servings.

Aiming to improve the quality of life for caregivers, theSimply-to-Gopilot program is supported by Sodexo Healthcare, a facilities management and food services company.

It offers fresh, locally sourced, seasonal fruit and vegetable items at 3 quick pick-up sites on the MUSC campus.

“Our nurses impact the lives of their patients, colleagues, families, and neighbors every day. We had no reservations when we were approached to spearhead the pilot because the health of our staff is a top priority,” Andrea Coyle, RN, MUSC Health Professional Excellence and Magnet Program director, said in a statement. “We are honored to work alongside Sodexo and ANA to offer more quality food options on our campus and serve as a model for other organizations.”

The success of the pilot program could also be promising for patients.

Study results have shown that clinicians are more likely to counsel patients about healthy lifestyle choices and are viewed as more credible resources when they are healthy themselves, according to the ANA.

“Nurses are viewed as exemplars of health due to their expertise, knowledge and role across all areas of health care. The [Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation pilot] at MUSC is a shining example of how we can begin to close the gap between knowing and doing,” Bonnie Clipper, DNP, RN, MA, MBA, CENP, FACHE, ANA enterprise vice president of practice and innovation, said in a statement.

“The well-being of nurses is fundamental to the health of our nation,” she said.

In a recent statement about the FDA’s advocacy for nutrition, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said that making healthy food choices can have a significant impact on health.

“When we think about advancing health and reducing the death and disability caused by disease, we often think about our investments in new technology and developing the next breakthrough drug. But the cumulative effect of making smart decisions every day about our diets, when spread over a population, can dwarf the impact of any single new medical product,” Gottlieb said.

“The most significant impacts against disease are probably going to come from our focus on the public health basics: reducing smoking rates, increasing vaccinations, and improving the healthfulness of our dietary choices,” he said.

The outcomes and results from the MUSC nutrition pilot are expected to be presented in the fall.

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