How 3.6 Million Nurses Are Leading the Nation’s Journey to Better Health

Added on Feb 20, 2018

By Andrea Fitzgerald, Staff Writer

news-item-1-HPINurses often work tirelessly to meet patients’ needs, but for many, the cost of doing so may be their own health.

Nurses are more likely to be overweight, have higher levels of stress and get less sleep than the average American, according to the American Nurses Association (ANA) Health Risk Appraisal. They are at risk for burnout, bullying, illness, injury and musculoskeletal pain in the workplace. They represent the largest subset of health care workers, and one in every 100 U.S. citizens.

These are just a few of the statistics driving the ANA’s Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™  Grand Challenge (HNHN GC), an initiative to connect and engage nurses, employers and organizations around improving health in five areas: physical activity, nutrition, rest, quality of life and safety.

“To build the initiative we had to start from the ground up,” said Mary Jo Assi, Associate Chief Nursing Officer for Press Ganey. Assi was asked to co-lead what came to be known as the HNHN GC while she was serving as Vice President of Nursing Practice and Innovation at the ANA, and she continues to work on the project as a member of the HNHN GC Steering Committee. The challenge that faced the development team—to improve the health of the nation’s 3.6 million nurses—was daunting and would require the efforts and resources of more than any one organization, Assi said.

“We knew that giving power and voices to the people who would be carrying out the mission at the local level would make the movement exponentially greater in terms of potential impact,” she said. So, HNHN GC set out to engage nurses at individual, organizational and interpersonal levels to reach and more broadly connect with nurses across the country.

Driving these levels of engagement is a methodology that many are familiar with, but few may recognize by name. “’Grand challenge’ is not a catchphrase,” Assi said. “It’s a methodology of creating meaningful social change.” The movements to ban smoking in public places, to use seat belts and to stop littering are well-known examples of socially beneficial goals that unified many different individuals and groups, she explained. “The idea was to use the same framework to bring together tens and tens of thousands to take up the banner of organizers and leaders at the national level to improve the health and wellness of nurses.”

Bringing tens and tens of thousands of individuals together is possible today with just a few mouse clicks thanks to the prevalence and immediacy of social media, which Assi identifies as a key driver of the movement’s success. “Connection and friendly competition, both facilitated by social media, are two core pieces in motivating people to truly change their behavior and improve their health and wellness,” she said.

Such is the origin and charter of the social collaboration platform, Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ Connect. Not only can subscribers share success stories, tips and recipes on the platform, but they can also find resources such as a challenge calendar that highlights a unique objective every month, a Resolution Wall where participants can share their New Year’s commitment to one of the five areas of health and a #HealthyNurse Spotlight that celebrates inspiring individuals.

Since its launch in May 2017, HNHN GC has attracted hundreds of partners, ranging from “friends” to “premier partners” based on their level of commitment. Partners, including employers of nurses, nurse associations and schools, health care organizations and consumer organizations, may pledge to make a specific commitment and set metrics for success, or simply share information about HNHN GC and encourage nurses to join. Premier partners such as Press Ganey have made a specific commitment to collaborate with ANA in the areas of health and wellness, staffing, workplace violence and safe patient handling and mobility. Other premier partners including Mayo Clinic Arizona and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles have demonstrated their commitment to HNHN GC by providing step competitions, fitness classes and on-site farmer’s markets to improve the health and wellness of their staff.

“Every partnership counts as one step closer to a healthier nursing workforce and a healthier nation. Never underestimate the impact of an organizational commitment,” Assi stressed, noting that the workplace impacts an individual’s emotional, psychological and physical well-being.

The stakes of the HNHN GC are high—and the payoff could be huge. Creating a healthy nurse population will create a healthier workforce, and a system of care centered on efficiency, safety and sustainability, according to Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation Implementation Model.

For that reason, Assi stressed, it’s important to realize the implications of failing to support the health of 3.6 million nurses and their patients and families. “How can we expect to sustain the health of the health care system if its providers and professionals are not healthy?”