Sue Ferguson, DNP, MBA, RN, CPHQ, NEA-BC
How one nurse’s passion for wellness emphasizes immune health
Health and wellness go beyond what’s seen on the surface. They’re about what’s happening on the inside, too.
That’s one fact that Dr. Sue Ferguson prioritizes. Wellness is her passion, and she keeps in mind the importance of exercising regularly and eating healthy. But she considers both the exterior benefits and the internal benefits. For example, immune health is a crucial part of wellness for Dr. Ferguson, especially as she ages.
“I’ve worked long, stressful days in my nursing and healthcare career, pushed my body through marathons and half marathons, and not gotten enough sleep,” said Dr. Ferguson. “What I realize now is that as we age, those things begin to have more negative impact on our bodies, so I’m more aware and focused on keeping my immune system healthy and building my bone mass to prevent bone loss.”
While Dr. Ferguson has always had a healthy foundation, she’s recently made changes that target her body’s shifting needs. She’s incorporated more workouts that help with muscle strengthening, flexibility, and balance, such as yoga and weightlifting. She’s also tweaked her diet to include more plant-based foods and less processed foods and sugar. Finally, Dr. Ferguson gives her body and immune system a boost with supplements like zinc, vitamin D, fish oil, and calcium.
An Evolving Diet
Dr. Ferguson is especially passionate about the foods she chooses to eat. Recently, she spent 3 months eating a vegan diet, which consisted of no dairy or animal protein, and only plant-based foods. She loved it, but was advised by her physician that she needed certain vitamins and minerals from animal-based foods.
That’s when she decided to combine her beloved vegan diet with specific elements of a paleo diet. She went from a strict vegan diet to a well-balanced nutrition plan to ensure she gets essential micronutrients that only come from animal sources. On a typical day, she consumes mostly fruits and vegetables, a healthy fat like avocado, beans, and a complex carbohydrate like quinoa. Every once in a while she eats an egg or fish such as cod or salmon. Her focus is on fresh, unprocessed, whole foods.
Because of these healthy choices, Dr. Ferguson feels well physically, emotionally, and mentally. And she knows she’s doing her best to keep her immune system strong and stable.
Everyone Has Challenges
Despite being as healthy as she can, Dr. Ferguson faces challenges like any other person.
“My biggest health challenge is getting enough sleep,” said Dr. Ferguson. “The problem is that I’ve been able to skimp on sleep for a long time, so it’s a long-standing behavior that I now choose to change.”
She’s combatting this challenge by following a nightly routine to prioritize healthy sleep. She sets an alarm for the same time each evening, and when it goes off, she stops what she’s doing to get ready for bed. After her nighttime hygiene routine, her goal is to be in bed by 10 p.m. to help her get the proper amount of sleep. While she isn’t perfect, she’s trying hard each day to improve.
“There’s no perfection in living a healthy life, you just do the best you can,” said Dr. Ferguson. “I choose to stop being so hard on myself. And sometimes healthy habit changes just need to occur over time. You can’t always just flip a switch to make sustainable changes.”
So, what keeps Dr. Ferguson motivated? How does she stay on track or work up enough determination to get back on track when needed?
“I’m motivated to be healthy by my desire to feel good, look good, and be happy — and I love sharing that with others,” she said. “I believe that we all have the power to heal ourselves and that we must treat the whole person — mind, body, emotions, and spirit.”
Dr. Ferguson’s Advice
Nurses owe it to themselves to live healthier, happier lives. To do this, Dr. Ferguson recommends:
- Taking care of yourself: Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s a requirement to be able to care for others. Find 15-minutes a day for self-care, whether that’s quiet restful time, being physically active, or being indulgent in some way that brings you joy.
- Doing what works for you: The best way to find out how to improve your health and wellness is to experiment. When you choose healthy habits that you’re interested in, you’re more likely to do them.
- Asking for help: It’s OK and necessary to have support in our own health and wellness journey. Everyone can benefit from having a friend, accountability partner, coach, or trainer for support.
Sue Ferguson, DNP, MBA, RN, CPHQ, NEA-BC, is the Clinical Administrative Director for the Breast Center at the University of Texas MD Anderson.
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