BACKGROUND: Few studies have explored the health practices of critical care nurses. Critical care nurses routinely teach patients about using healthy practices such as low-fat diets, exercise, and routine screening examinations. However, it may be even more important that the nurses themselves have a healthy lifestyle, thus serving as role models for patients. Nurses are selling a product, and that product is health. The best salespersons are those who are genuinely committed to their product and model its benefits. Therefore, critical care nurses' healthful practices can have a profound effect on their patients. OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this descriptive exploratory study was to examine critical care nurses' responses to three questions about health practices in their daily lives: (1) What are critical care nurses doing currently to stay healthy? (2) Do they anticipate making any changes in their lifestyle in the future? (3) Would they recommend their lifestyle to their patients? METHODS: One hundred twenty-seven critical care nurses attending a midwestern critical care conference completed a two-part questionnaire designed to produce a health profile. In a man-on-the-street approach, 23 nurses participated in an interview via video camera. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the data retrieved from the questionnaires. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed for themes with a constant comparative method. RESULTS: More than 70% of the critical care nurses who responded engage in exercise and follow a healthy, low-fat diet. Seventy-one percent said that they anticipate making a change in their lifestyle in the future, and 70% said that they would recommend their lifestyle to their patients. Five themes emerged from the videotaped interviews: (1) Heart-healthy practices predominated the responses. (2) Incorporating a healthy lifestyle was easy for some and a struggle for others. (3) Critical care nurses readily listed barriers to healthy living. (4) The nurses had a positive attitude about their healthy lifestyles and felt optimistic about being role models for their patients. (5) Future plans were either singular in focus or limited to maintenance of current health habits. CONCLUSIONS: The majority of the nurses reported practicing a healthy lifestyle and thought that they were good role models for patients.

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