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Hispanic Heritage Month: 3 Health Tips for Hispanic Nurses, Patients

Publish Date: September 22, 2021

Hispanic Month

As AORN honors Hispanic Heritage Month and as nurses continue to forge ahead through the COVID-19 pandemic, now is a great time to think about actions to improve physical and mental health for Hispanic/Latino nurses and patients, notes Lizette Girado, MSN, RN, CNOR, senior clinical program manager for AORN’s Pfiedler Education.

She says cultural dietary habits and a perception that being a little overweight is healthy can be dangerous for Hispanic/Latino nurses. “We all tend to ignore healthy eating habits when we are stressed and running on empty. I’m definitely a stress eater, but it’s important to remember that stress eating is even more dangerous for Hispanics who are at an increased risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

Girado also worries about Hispanic/Latino nurses who feel guilty about putting themselves first. “It is part of our culture and the mindset of nurses in general to put others before yourself but if you are not your best, you can’t truly care for loved ones and patients,” she stresses.

Making changes for a healthier mind and body isn’t easy for anyone, but it’s worth the effort. Here are three daily habits Girado suggests to put your health first.

  1. Choose complex carbohydrates and replace sugary drinks with water.
    The Hispanic/Latino population is such a diverse group of people with unique histories and cultural traditions. One thing we do have in common is a tendency toward eating lots of simple carbohydrates, such as refined sugars, white rice and soft drinks that can spike our blood sugar much faster and lead to weight gain, she explains.

    “I’m trying to focus on eating more complex carbohydrates in my daily diet, including whole grains, legumes and vegetables—with a few easy changes, we can still cook the food we love, just make it a little healthier for ourselves and our families.”

    Girado also tries to make water her go-to whenever she’s thirsty. “Those sugary drinks are great for the burst of energy you get, but then you crash, and that blood sugar spike is not healthy.”
  2. Realize self-care is making you stronger to care for others.
    There is plenty of literature to support the reality that stress and anxiety can increase blood pressure, especially if you are pre-disposed to it and the demands of working through the pandemic have only increased these stressors, Girado says.” Self-care actions such as exercising regularly and even taking a moment for mindfulness to breathe and reflect on the good can help our mind and body to stay strong for patients and family.”
  3. Recognize the signs of burnout and seek support.
    Trying to power through burnout is not healthy or safe, especially if you are feeling advanced signs of burnout, such as having no purpose in your work, she cautions. “When you feel the initial signs of burnout, such as fatigue and dread to go to work, be strong enough to ask for support—healthcare organizations are recognizing that burnout is widespread, and many have implemented counseling programs for nurses.

    “Getting help should not be seen as a weakness,” she stresses. “It takes courage to navigate through these feelings of burnout and realize that counseling can make you stronger.”

Educate Your Hispanic/Latino Patients About Health Disparities

It’s important for all perioperative nurses to educate themselves and others about health disparities for patients who are Hispanic/Latino, Girado notes. For example, Hispanics/Latinos are 50% more likely to die from diabetes or liver disease and are 22% less likely to have controlled blood pressure when compared to non-Hispanic whites, according to the CDC.

“We must create awareness among nurses and then among patients about the health disparities that Hispanics/Latinos face, and the actions we can take to stay healthy,” she says.

Access to vaccines is also a recognized disparity in Hispanic/Latino populations, so it’s more important than ever to help patients understand the science about the vaccine, Girado says. “Make sure you share the correct, science-based information on vaccines with all patients because their life could depend on the decision they make.”