A sick nurse is an ineffective nurse. You owe it to your patients, your colleagues and yourself to stay healthy.
Are you doing everything you can to avoid getting sick?
Here are 7 ways to stay healthy at work.
1. Wash Your Hands
Every year, hundreds of millions of people worldwide are affected by nosocomial infections. According to the World Health Organization, washing your hands with soap and water is still the most effective deterrent against getting sick. Wash your hands before and after you enter a patient’s room, before and after every physical contact with a patient, and after touching any objects that are frequently handled by others, such as patient charts or bedside glucometers. If you simply can’t wash your hands at some point, use a sanitizer instead.
2. Clean Your Stethoscope
If your job involves using a stethoscope, make sure you keep it clean. Clean your stethoscope before and after each use and after anyone else borrows it. The best way to clean your stethoscope is with an alcohol wipe. Make sure you go all the way up the tubing as well as on the diaphragm. Do it in front of your patients so that you can model good practice for them. Most hospitals and health clinics do not have stethoscope cleaning protocols in place, but a germy stethoscope can make you just as sick as germy hands.
3. Fight Stress
Stress is an unavoidable part of any nursing job. How much and how often depends on the individual job, but one thing is for sure: it’s not enough to passively “ride out” stress. You have to actively fight it. Otherwise, stress will lower your immune system and deprive you of health. You can actively fight stress by deliberately taking time out during your day, by meditating, by listening to relaxation tapes on your lunch hour, by power napping or through dozens of other strategies. Don’t wait until you feel stressed to start combating it; incorporate de-stressing routines into your life right away to help keep you healthy and strong.
4. Go to Sleep
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the right amount of sleep contributes to a thriving immune system. Unfortunately, nurses’ immune systems are often compromised through lack of sleep. It’s all too easy to sell yourself short on sleep, since the negative effects don’t always show up immediately. But when you’re tempted to stay out partying to unwind after a hard day or to work overtime the night before an early shift, just think about how awful you felt last time you got sick.
5. Say No to Extra Shifts
Extra shifts can be financially tempting, but how much extra money will you make when you push yourself so hard that you have to call in sick? The more you work, the more rundown you get, and the more rundown you get, the more likely you are to catch anything from a cold to a serious infection. Decide how much work your body can handle and don’t accept any extra shifts after you’re maxed out. If you feel guilty for turning down work, remember that you’re also keeping your patients and colleagues healthy by taking care of yourself.
6. Drink Your Water
Dehydration leads to fatigue, urinary tract infections, headaches and more. It can be hard to remember to pour yourself a glass of water between patients, so carry a water bottle with you at all times. Take sips of water while you’re in the elevator or filling out paperwork. You’ll be much more likely to stay hydrated and you’ll feel better.
7. Avoid Alcohol and Tobacco
Nurses of all people should know the dire effects of alcohol and tobacco on the immune system and physical health, but these substances are also traditionally used to de-stress and unwind. If you’re exhausted, a secret cigarette or second glass of wine might sound appealing. One glass of wine won’t hurt, but drinking late into the night or bingeing is a bad idea. Join a support group if you are having trouble kicking tobacco out of your life completely. Get some other relaxation routines in place so you don’t feel tempted by alcohol and tobacco, and think about the consequences before indulging.
If you practice these 7 ways to stay healthy, you’ll not only avoid getting sick but you’ll also feel better on a regular basis. If you have trouble incorporating the suggestions into your workday, try focusing on one at a time until they’re internalized. The better you feel, the more motivated you’ll be to prioritize your health.