How Many Calories Do Nurse Practitioners Burn at Work?

Admittedly, I’m a little bit of a health nut. I eat more than my fair share of fruits and veggies. I jog religiously. But, when I get home from working an evening or night shift in the ER, I totally binge. My husband stares wide-eyed from his seat at the kitchen table where he sits sipping coffee as I storm through the door at 6am and down 3 chocolate chips without blinking as I tell him about my evening. 

Spoonfuls of peanut butter post a 3am evening shift in the emergency department are my norm. Not to mention, I can’t resist the pizza and other treats brought in by nurses during work hours themselves. My self control while sleepy is partly to blame. Fatigue throws my healthy eating plan out the window, fast. But, hunger also comes into play. Ten hours on my feet running around the emergency department as a nurse practitioner has got to burn quite a few calories, right? No wonder I’m starving after work. 

As somewhat of an experiment, and I think in an attempt to justify the amount of peanut butter (OK, with chocolate chips mixed in…) I eat late-night, I decided to track the number of calories I burn on a shift working as a nurse practitioner in the ER. Here was my (un)scientific method:

  1. Enable the Apple Health app as I pulled into the hospital parking garage directing it to track my steps and miles walked. 
  2. Carry my phone in the pocket of my scrubs throughout my 10 hour shift. 

The result? According to Apple Health, I walked a total of 5,388 steps covering a total distance of 3.74 miles. 

Using this information, it’s possible to estimate the number of calories I burned working a 10 hour shift in the emergency department. Calorie expenditure varies based on height, weight and pace, but let’s say I burn about 80 calories walking one mile. This means I burned about 299 calories based on the walking I did at work. Not enough to completely counteract my late-night peanut butter binge, but more calories than I would have worked off watching Netflix on the couch. 

My little experiment falls short in several areas, of course. First, it assumes that Apple Health’s step tracking and distance measuring mechanisms are accurate and, that I cruised along at an 80 calorie per mile walking speed. I didn’t measure my pace. 

I would argue that as a nurse practitioner I burn slightly more than 299 calories per shift. I spend a significant amount of time standing which burns about 30% more calories than sitting idle. Not to mention, getting up and down from my chair about a million times each day counts as a squat, right?

Overall, working as a nurse practitioner doesn’t quite count as a workout. But, it’s still a definite positive for mind and body to be in a profession that doesn’t mandate days spent sedentary in a cubicle. 

How many steps do you walk in a shift?


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