Healthy eating and physical activity among new graduate nurses: A qualitative study of barriers and enablers during their first year of clinical practice

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Collegian: The Australian Journal of Nursing Practice, Scholarship and Research, 2021, 28, (5), pp. 489-497
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Background: New graduate nurses entering the workforce experience numerous barriers to maintaining a healthy lifestyle including shift work, the high cost of healthy foods at the workplace and high levels of exhaustion which reduce motivation to participate in regular physical activity. Research has documented unhealthy lifestyles among nurses across the profession. However, few studies focus on graduates' experiences during their transition into their careers. Aim: To investigate the barriers and enablers to healthy eating and participation in physical activity for new graduate nurses during their first year of clinical practice, and to explore attitudes to participation in workplace health promotion programs. Methods: Semi-structured interviews informed by the socioecological model were conducted with 24 new graduate nurses and analysed using thematic analysis. Findings: Four key themes emerged as barriers to healthy eating and physical activity: time, shift work, work environment, and work culture. Participants indicated a high interest in workplace health promotion programs. Discussion: Limited time and shift work impact on the eating and physical activity behaviours of new graduate nurses which leads to unhealthy snacking to maintain energy, as does high levels of exhaustion, reduced motivation to eat healthy foods, and decreased participation in physical activity. The work culture and environment also influence eating behaviours. Inadequate breaks lead to consumption of foods that are quick to eat but often low in nutrients. Conclusion: New graduate nurses experience the same difficulties in maintaining healthy lifestyles as more experienced nurses. Understanding the barriers which influence their dietary and physical activity behaviours can help inform strategies to improve the health of nurses at a critical time when they enter the nursing workforce.
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