Care for the caregivers

Being a nurse herself, Julia Buss, RN, MS, knows what its like to spend the day taking care of others.

"There are 3 million (registered) nurses, and they're good at looking after other people, but not so good at looking after themselves," said Buss.

So after spending months reading everything she could on nutrition and wellness, and looking at studies such as the 2008 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners that shows 54 percent of nurses are overweight or obese, in July she published "Your Care Plan, A nurse's guide to healthy living."

The book gives tips and ideas for how to stay fit and healthy despite the pressures of a stressful environment, few breaks, long hours and not a lot of access to food. Buss said she believes its part of the nurse culture; the priority is always looking after someone else.

Linda Kraiko, a registered nurse and Senior Director of Patient Services at St. Margaret Mercy's Dyer campus, said she's heard the average age of nurses is about 48 years old, which puts them smack dab in the middle of the "sandwich generation," meaning they not only care for patients at work, but also their children and their aging parents.

"We put everybody first and we're really the last," she said.

Still, she said she's gotten into the habit of bringing her lunch, allowing her to control portion size and the ability to grab the occasional banana when she has a few spare moments.

Barb Foust, cardiac rehab nurse and part-time nursing supervisor at St. Catherine Hospital, said being a nurse is taxing, but staying healthy is all about prioritizing and planning.

Julie Mantis, a diabetes educator at Community Hospital, said it's part of her mission to eat and exercise in a similar way to how she advises her patients. Also a runner, Mantis has completed five marathons and said it can be difficult to make herself train after work, but sets a goal and believes in sticking with it.

Terri Pugh, heart failure program coordinator at Porter and a nurse for about 20 years, believes her job has difficulties just like anyone else's, but that's no excuse for not taking care of yourself.

"I strive to eat right and exercise. I don't smoke. It probably would be the same even if I wasn't a nurse," she said.

Cathy Pera, unit director for intermediate care and cardiac rehab at Porter, echoes Pugh's sentiments.

"Nurses are wonderful caregivers, but we have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others."