Aim: Promoting healthy lifestyles plays a key role in professional nursing yet nurses do not always practice what they preach. Efforts are currently being made to improve the health of NHS staff, yet little is known about the health and lifestyle behaviours of pre-registration nurses in the UK although these individuals are our next generation of NHS employees. The aim of this study was to investigate the health behaviours and wellbeing of pre-registration nurses based at an acute NHS teaching hospital in England.
Methods: In this cross-sectional questionnaire survey, 325 pre-registration nurses (50% response rate) completed a health and lifestyle questionnaire, measuring levels of physical activity, smoking and alcohol behaviour, dietary practices and general health.
Results: Age ranged from 19-53 years, and 96% of the sample was female. More than half of the sample did not meet public health recommendations for physical activity. Just under one-fifth were current smokers and over three-quarters did not consume five servings of fruit/vegetables per day. Two-thirds reported exceeding the recommended maximum daily alcohol intake and around one third were classified as either overweight or obese. Those who were physically inactive were less likely to report good general health, good dietary practices and more sleep, and were more likely to report cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption than their active counterparts.
Conclusions: This study indicates that the health profile of pre-registration nurses is relatively poor, and that those who are sedentary engage in other negative lifestyle behaviours also. Despite significant education relating to health promotion and health behaviours of patients being targeted at pre-registered nurses, it seems that this knowledge is not always transferred to their own behaviour. There is a need for timely intervention to establish healthy lifestyle behaviours amongst nurses early in their career.