Student voice: time to take care?

The ban on sugary food and drinks in hospitals shows NHS England do not realise how busy nurses are.

The ban on sugary food and drinks in hospitals shows NHS England do not realise how busy nurses are.

Healthy Vending machine
Picture: iStock

The vending machine on the ward where I worked a night shift had just been filled with healthy food and drinks, and patients and staff were unimpressed. They all used a machine on another ward that was still stocked up with unhealthy fare. 

NHS England’s proposed ban on sugary drinks attempts to set a healthy example in the face of unpalatable statistics on overweight and obesity. Given the rise in childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes and dental caries, we children’s nurses should lead by example. 

Yet a ban on sugary drinks shows a lack of understanding of nurses’ lives. Many nurses do not live healthy, balanced lifestyles due to the nature of their job. Working 12‑hour shifts on busy wards or departments is a serious barrier to a healthy lifestyle. 

Low priority

Nurses doing shift work cannot commit to regular exercise classes, and are usually so tired or busy on their days off that exercise becomes a low priority. 

My local trust offers staff yoga and Pilates classes several times a month. In theory, this is a brilliant idea, but most of the classes are held in the middle of the day and many are an hour long, making it impractical, if not impossible, for shift workers to attend. 

Another problem for nurses is exhaustion. I work on a busy surgical ward where staff rarely get to take their breaks. This leaves two options: go hungry or grab something from a vending machine. 

This problem continues after the shifts have ended when, feeling tired and hungry, staff feel less inclined to prepare healthy meals and are more likely to call for takeaways. 

The fact that NHS England believes obesity can be tackled by removing the option of a quick sugar fix shows how out of touch they are with the real issues. 

If hospitals across the county were better staffed and nurses were not being constantly pushed to their limits, we would have the time and inclination to take care of ourselves.

About the author


Emma Cowen is a children’s nursing student at the University of Brighton

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