If you’re looking to build a long and rewarding career as a nurse, staying healthy shift after shift is essential. But, the nature of the job sometimes exposes you to a variety of risks that can result in serious illness, injury, and even death. As colder weather approaches, and the season for colds, stomach viruses, strep and the flu gets into full swing, we want to remind you of the importance of protecting yourself. Here are 10 critical steps that fellow registered nurse Debra Wood recommends nurses take in her article The Top 10 Ways to Avoid Injuries and Illness at Your Nursing Job.
1. Clean Your Hands: Although basic, the simple practice of washing your hands is the #1 way to avoid getting sick. Don’t let the annoyance of dry hands keep you from taking this important step before and after every interaction with a patient.
2. Use the Lift and Transfer Equipment: Underestimating the weight of a patient has injured many a nurse. According to the American Nurses Association, 52 percent of nurses complain of chronic back pain. Do your back a favor and use the lift and transfer equipment.
3. Watch for Hazards and Practice Good Body Mechanics: In most fast-paced healthcare settings, there are many slip-and-fall hazards you have to keep your eyes open to avoid. Doing your part to keep treatment areas clutter-free goes a long way. It’s also essential to be aware of your body posture and movement throughout the day. Wood says, “Changing positions and muscle movements helps minimize pain and discomfort over time.”
4. Speak Up and Step Up: Dealing with volatile patients is best done with help. Don’t try to handle difficult interactions or patient transfers alone. Ask for help when you need it and be willing to help others in the same situation.
5. Get a Flu Shot: Nurse practitioner Tanielle Sterling strongly recommends that nurses get the flu vaccine not just to protect themselves but also their patients, colleagues and family members.
6. Immunize, Immunize, Immunize: Staying current with your vaccinations for hepatitis B, tetanus, diphtheria, measles, mumps and rubella is the best way to protect yourself from the increased risk of exposure to virus and infection.
7. Practice Needle Safety: Nearly 1,000 sharps injuries occur per day in U.S. hospitals. By practicing safe handling and disposal procedures, you can avoid becoming one of the many healthcare workers who suffer from this completely avoidable injury.
8. Wear Protective Gear When Appropriate: Wood advises nurses to always wear the appropriate gloves, gowns, masks, eye protection and other protective items to prevent exposure to patients’ body fluids. She says, “Take no shortcuts when it comes to protection against bloodborne pathogens.”
9. Don’t Skimp on Sleep: Sleep-deprived healthcare workers significantly increase their risk of causing harm to themselves and others. Make getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night a priority.
10. Take Care of Yourself: Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, practicing good work/life balance, and getting the emotional support you need to deal with on-the-job and personal stress goes a long way in helping you stay healthy and happy at work and in life.
To learn more about avoiding illness and injury at work, you can read Wood’s entire article here.