ANA Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation® - #healthynurse Spotlight Series -  Patricia Johnson, APRN, FNP-C 4751

ANA Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation® - #healthynurse Spotlight Series - Patricia Johnson, APRN, FNP-C


Nurse races to a healthy lifestyle

“Practice what you preach” is how #healthynurse Patricia Johnson, APRN, FNP-C, a nurse practitioner working with the senior population at Conviva Care Center, lives her life.

Over the past 8 years, Patricia has made small but powerful lifestyle changes — modifying how she exercises, eats, and sees herself. Her motivation stems from a desire to inspire others, especially her patients.

“I’ve always been on the heavy side,” Patricia says. “But when I became a nurse practitioner, I knew I would be educating patients about healthy lifestyles, losing weight, and eating properly. I decided to do that myself so they could see it was achievable.”

But like anything worth doing, Patricia’s commitment to a healthy lifestyle requires hard work. She has overcome setbacks and considers herself a work in progress.

From Couch to Committed
Patricia knew that to make real change, she needed to start slowly and have a plan. She and 3 coworkers decided to follow the Couch to 5KÒ program, which provides an interval training plan for people who want to work up to running a 5-kilometer (5K) race. The group of 4 eventually became a group of 2, but those 2 held firm. Patricia and her running partner started running 5Ks and then half-marathons all over the country.

“I’ve never been a runner, but now I love it,” Patricia says. “My patients kept me going — they were so excited each time they saw me. They could see I was physically changing and becoming more energetic. Some of my patients also run 5Ks, and we get to see each other and run together.”

All that running and a commitment to healthier eating helped Patricia lose nearly 150 pounds over a few years — a goal she never dreamed she could achieve.

Picking Up the Pieces After the Pandemic
Patricia experienced a hurdle during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her social running came to a grinding halt, old eating habits crept back in, and she slowly gained back about half of the weight.

Now, Patricia is recommitted to getting back to where she was before the pandemic. The process is slow, but she knows how good it feels to live a healthy lifestyle. She’s also finding that her renewed commitment resonates with her patients.

“I tell my patients that I truly believe exercising is the fountain of youth,” she says. “And I share my personal story, too — my struggles and steps I’ve taken to improve my diet and incorporate more movement.”

Patricia’s Recipe for Success
Patricia doesn’t attribute her continued efforts and motivation to just one thing. She sets herself up for success by sticking to several key guidelines:

              Find what you love
Running gives Patricia a feeling of euphoria. She wishes she’d tried it earlier. “My only regret is not trying track in high school,” she says. “Then I would have had this healthy habit my whole life instead of just finding it now.”

              Have an open mind
Running isn’t the only new thing Patricia tried. Until recently, she never liked vegetables and avoided anything green. “I had to learn to acquire that taste and enjoy vegetables and salads, but it is possible,” she says. “Like with anything, the first step is trying it. If you like it, you do it. If you don’t, you move on and try something else.”
              Keep it social
When the pandemic hit, Patricia realized that the social aspect of her exercise and 5K training is critical. “Involving other people with the same goal doesn’t just hold you accountable,” she says. “It makes it way more fun.”

              Set up incentives
Patricia likes having something on the line, whether she has a wager with friends, is earning wellness points and prizes at work, or acquiring bragging rights. “With every 5K or half-marathon I run, I get a little medal,” she says. “My friends and I save every single one. We have racks of the medals we’ve collected over the years.”

              Stick to a schedule
Patricia schedules her workouts (typically in the early morning) and plans her meals. “I involve my family, which is critical to succeeding with healthy eating,” she says. “It keeps me from just grabbing and eating processed food.”

Reaping the Rewards of Running
Patricia is not the only one benefitting from her “practice what you preach” attitude — it’s affected people around her. She’s enlisted coworkers to join her. Some of her senior patients have started walking and running 5Ks. Patricia’s husband and grown children have also run races with her.

“I began this to show others what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it, and I still have more to accomplish,” Patricia says. “Next on my bucket list? I want to complete a marathon before I turn 50.”

Patricia Johnson, APRN, FNP-C, is a nurse practitioner working with the senior population at Conviva Care Center.

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Blog #healthynurse Spotlight 05/06/2024 7:00pm CDT

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The #healthynurse Spotlight is a shout out to nurses who are making changes in their lives to improve their health and wellness. You can too! Read their stories for inspiration here.