September 3, 2018

Burpees in the Break Room: How One RN is Creating a Fitness Revolution

Burpees in the Break Room: How One RN is Creating a Fitness Revolution

By Chaunie Brusie BSN, RN

While some nurses spend their lunches collapsing in the break room, shoveling in food as fast as they can, or maybe skipping eating altogether to catch up on that #chartlife, Kelsea Drzewiecki, RN, BSN, CCRN, from Flint, Michigan, spends her break just a little differently:

By squeezing in a workout. 

Despite the fact that she only has 30 minutes, is dressed in scrubs, and has a full physically demanding 12+ hour shift on her feet to get through, Drzewiecki has recently taken to dedicating time to bust out some burpees at the hospital—and now, she’s hoping to inspire other nurses to do the same.  

Drzewiecki, 25, who has worked in an adult cardiovascular ICU for her three-year career as a nurse, explains that she has always loved exercise but started working out more intensely about two years ago. After making a switch to working day shift, she wasn’t able to make her gym’s class times work with her schedule anymore, so she settled on a simple solution: she would just have to work out at the hospital. 

And that’s exactly what she did.  

How she does it

Image via @kelsdrz

Just how does a nurse make working out work at work? Drzewiecki, who is a member at CrossFit Tuebor West in Fenton, MI, follows a modified version of her gym’s daily workout routine, also known as the WOD (workout of the day) using what is available at the hospital. Her facility, fortunately, offers a small fitness room that is equipped with treadmills, dumbbells, an exercise ball and a bench, so she’s able to do a variety of different exercises. And the moves she can’t do? Yup, you guessed it: she substitutes with burpees. 

Drzewiecki’s workouts vary from 5 to 20 minutes and she also makes time to towel down, splash water on her face, and change back into her scrubs before eating a quick lunch and heading back to her unit. She notes that in addition to helping to clear her mind and give her more energy to head back to the floor, taking time to physically leave her unit for a break helps her deal with the stress of the non-stop alarms she would hear if she just ate her lunch on her unit. “I didn’t know how much the alarms were bothering me and making me anxious until I actually left the unit,” she explains.  

Why it’s worth it

Image via @kelsdrz

Initially, Drzewiecki confesses that was incredibly nervous to leave her unit, but as soon as she was able to experience the benefits of the energy and endorphin boost her brief workout provided, she was hooked. And of course, there are simply those days when her patient load doesn’t allow her to get away, but on the days she is able to make it there, she notices a huge difference in how she’s able to care for her patients afterward. “I feel so much better when I’m done,” she explains. 

Now, if you’re reading this just picturing your sore, achy body during a shift and are horrified at the thought of doing anything but catching any kind of break during your lunch, Drzewiecki fully admits that, like any exhausted nurse, she completely has moments when all she wants to do is just sit in the break room with her feet up. But that’s when she remembers that it’s about the long-term benefits of making fitness a part of her life as a nurse. “I have to remind myself how I’ll feel after,” she notes. “It’s worth it for me.” 

Motivating a nurse movement

For Drzewiecki, working out is about more than doing some push-ups on her break; it’s about combatting the chronic illnesses and health conditions that plague so many of the patients that she sees at the hospital. “As nurses, we take care of people who have conditions like heart disease, COPD, emphysema, morbid obesity, or diabetes that is not controlled well and that’s the biggest reason why I started working out outside of the gym,” she explains. “I know what my future will look like if I don’t stay moving and eat healthy.”

And Drzewiecki’s dedication to fitness on her unit is making a difference among her growing following on her Instagram account, where she posts her shift workouts, as well as her co-workers. She recounts that some of her fellow nurses on night shift have sent her pictures of them working out at 3 AM, joined their own gyms, or tagged her in posts of them running up and down the hospital stairs during their 10-minute breaks. 

Drzewiecki is also taking advantage of the American Nurse’s Association’s Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation initiative and bringing some of their programs to her hospital, such as a 30-day fruit + veggie challenge. She notes that often times, hospital-wide weight-loss challenges either aren’t conducive for people who don’t need to lose weight or actually encourage crash diets that don’t impact nurses’ health in a long-term manner, so she hopes that focusing on easy steps to improve nutrition will make a more positive impact. “We hope to get people to eat more fruits and vegetables instead of chips and candy,” she says. “I’m excited to see how successful it is and how people will get on board.”  

Image via @kelsdrz

Along with encouraging better nutrition at work, Drzewiecki also hopes that she can inspire other nurses to incorporate healthier choices throughout their shifts in creative ways. For nurses who can’t take a break from their unit or who may not have a fitness facility on-site, she encourages small steps like walking around if they can in a safe space, climbing stairs, or doing squats wherever they can. 

“I want my coworkers and anybody, really, to see this,” she says. “If it inspires even one other person to get moving, it could save a life. Just moving a little more often is changing lives—I know it has changed mine.” 

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