Every change, no matter how small, makes a difference in achieving long-term goals.
Susan Indvik, BSN, RN and student health nurse at Dakota College at Bottineau, knows this firsthand. She’s constantly thinking of new ways to promote a healthy lifestyle among the student population at the college.
One of her most successful initiatives so far is the Healthy Lifestyle Change Wellness Profile Check. It’s a 3-month program that anyone on campus can sign up for. Components include:
- Access to a fitness app to track activity
- Weekly weigh-ins
- Weekly check-ins to gauge how participants are feeling (anxiety, stress, etc.)
- Support and wellness information from Susan
A Healthy Resource
Susan reaches the students using multiple outlets. She has access to all of the dorms; the Campus Connection (a channel displayed on TV screens across campus); the college Facebook page; posters in the cafeteria; and the student health bulletin board.
“As a nurse who sees people more when they’re sick than when they’re healthy, I want to get the word out that lifestyle changes students make now will make a difference long-term,” said Susan.
The program is different from a traditional weight-loss challenge because any type of healthy lifestyle change is considered progress. A winner is chosen based on the person with the best lifestyle changes and significant nutrition changes to better their health outcomes.
The winner of the program’s first run was a student who’d been on high blood pressure medications since age 11. Susan’s program helped him lose 36 inches, 28 pounds, and get off his blood pressure medications.
Knowledge Is Power
Susan is also working with members of the administration to provide healthier food options in the campus cafeteria. One of those changes is a larger variety of fresh salad choices. Beyond that, Susan thinks it’s important to make students aware of what they’re eating.
The cafeteria is placing identifiable stickers on certain food items to help students quickly see which options are healthier than others. For example, a food that’s considered heart healthy may have a heart sticker; or a food that has high sodium may have a sticker with a salt shaker and red line through it.
Susan is also working with the campus athletic trainer to develop healthy eating plans for members of the sports teams.
“Hockey players don’t necessarily need the same type of diet as football players, or as volleyball players,” said Susan. While still in development, her plan will help personalize eating habits based on the level of physical activity involved in the sport.
While Susan works primarily with students and staff, her observations apply to anyone in a nursing career, too. It’s easy and convenient to eat unhealthy foods, like quick snacks out of vending machines, or fast food from a drive-through. But if fresh fruits and vegetables are available, try to choose them more often.
Other advice from Susan:
- Focus on small changes: As busy nurses with long shifts, we don’t nourish ourselves like we should. Don't ever underestimate the power of one, simple change. Drink one less soda per day. Walk farther from your parking space to the door. The smaller you go with a change, the more likely it will become a new habit.
- Never give up on yourself: Try to live every day by what you teach and preach to your patients. It’s still a struggle, but focus on what you can do with the day at hand.
Susan Indvik, BSN, RN, is a student health nurse at Dakota College at Bottineau in Bottineau, North Dakota.
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