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Making resolutions, making meaningful changes


Did you make a New Year’s resolution? If so, how’s your resolve holding up? According to researchers, after 1 month, 75% of resolutions are being kept. The number drops to 64% after 2 months, to 50% after 6 months, and to 20% after a year.

So how do you beat the odds? How do you make meaningful changes in your life, whether you make your resolution on December 31 or any other day? Advice is plentiful.

First, you must be enthusiastic and have a real desire to achieve your goal.

And you must be realistic: Try to keep your goal as simple as possible. Break down big goals into achievable milestones.

Keep trying. If progress is slow, don’t get discouraged. Monitor your progress and reward yourself when you achieve milestones.

Engage friends and family. Announcing your goals to others gives them a chance to lend support and encouragement. Getting others to make a change with you may be a greater challenge.

Getting co-workers to change presents a similar challenge. Recently, I had a conversation with one of my staff nurses. We were swapping stories about back injuries, and I asked her if nurses on her unit were using the patient moving and lifting equipment. She sheepishly admitted that she and her colleagues weren’t as conscientious as they should be. Often, they revert to the old way, using manual help.

We talked about what it would take for her to lead the effort to get her co-workers to use the equipment. We envisioned a simple campaign with a catchy visual reminder for staff to retrieve the appropriate equipment for any patient movement. She reflected on how she could ignite enthusiasm to begin to change behaviors. When we parted, she assured me she would keep me posted on her progress.

Just as we want to make personal resolutions to improve our lives, we need to make resolutions and follow through by changing behaviors to strengthen nursing. In our workplaces, we can use the same tactics: Be enthusiastic. Be realistic. Keep trying.

Where to start? We have a serious need to improve the health of our nurses. We see it all around us. Many nurses are overweight; some are obese. They smoke. They are not as active as they should be. Some struggle with substance abuse.

As nurses, we all know better. As humans, we struggle, as many Americans do. The Surgeon General estimates that 70% of health problems can be prevented by these healthy behaviors: exercising more, improving nutrition, and stopping tobacco smoking.

The Harvard Nurses Health Study has been reporting on health risks and outcomes for many years. The consequences of decreased mobility, increased risk of heart disease and cancer, and premature death surely should sound an alarm among us. Can we identify ways to modify or eliminate the underlying factors that trigger unhealthy habits? If so, we can begin to conquer the forces that sabotage our motivation for a healthy lifestyle.

Experts say that until we understand and confront the consequences of unhealthy behaviors, we won’t be motivated to change. When the startling reality of the harm caused by tobacco was finally revealed, there was a public outcry to combat smoking. As a nation, we have not generated the same outrage to address other health challenges, though we see some progress to reduce super-sized food portions and to eliminate trans fats.

Perhaps, until we stop paying to treat the consequences of preventable illness, most won’t pay attention. So far, such external “sticks” have been effective in small measure only. Some insurance companies have higher premiums for smokers and those with other unhealthy behaviors, and some employers choose not to hire people with risky behaviors.

But true motivation comes from within. Let us all look for ways to improve our health as well as the health of our profession and our nation. It is important for each of us, who may live into our eighties, to be mindful of how our behaviors today will affect our quality of life in the future. Perhaps, making annual resolutions to improve our healthy behaviors isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, FAAN

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