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How to Stay Healthy When You're Surrounded by Sick People

Every day nurses tend to patients with runny noses, contagious coughs, and nasty rashes. They’re regularly exposed to a host of viruses and germs, yet they must stay well to complete their duties without infecting vulnerable patients. It might seem impossible to stay well when illness is all around, but these tips can give nurses the edge they need to maintain good health.

Get an Annual Flu Shot
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is one of the most debilitating viruses, like a cold on steroids with fevers and headaches thrown into the mix. This nasty virus can spread through health facilities like wildfire. However, the flu vaccine can stop it in its tracks by reducing the chances of healthy nurses contracting the virus by 70 to 90 percent.

The shot might sting a little, but that momentary pain is nothing compared to suffering from influenza. Get the shot every October or November to enjoy protection for the entire flu season.

Wash Your Hands Frequently
It’s expected that nurses will frequently wash their hands while they’re on the job, but many don’t consistently follow through. Studies suggest the national hand hygiene compliance rate stands at a paltry 47 percent, despite hand hygiene being the most effective infection prevention strategy.

Next time you think you’re too busy to wash your hands, think again. Hand washing helps protect you and your patients from contracting infections and diseases, so it’s vital to make the time.

Regularly Clean Your Stethoscope
stethoscope
Image via Flickr by jasleen_kaur

Your hands aren’t the only things that require regular cleaning during your workday. When was the last time you cleaned your stethoscope? It might surprise you to note that these instruments have just as many bacteria on them as unwashed fingertips.

Didier Pittet, the director of infection control at University of Geneva Hospital in Switzerland, believes stethoscopes should be wiped down with an alcohol-based rub after every use. Disposable covers are another alternative for keeping stethoscopes germ-free.

Get Enough Sleep
The rigors of shift work can play havoc on a nurse’s immune system. Studies show that on work days, nurses get an average of less than seven hours sleep, significantly less than the eight hours recommended. When the body is deprived of sleep, its T-cells go down and inflammatory cytokines go up. With the immune system impaired, a sleepy nurse has a greater risk of contracting colds and other diseases.

It’s important to make sleep a priority. Set aside a full eight hours, keep your room dark and cool, and nap to catch up on any sleep lost to night shifts.

Eat Right
The busy pace of time in the wards can make eating right a challenge. Nurses often find themselves chowing down at odd hours, grabbing fast food from the cafeterias, or skipping meals altogether. These poor eating habits all leave nurses vulnerable to illnesses. Make meal breaks a priority. Bring in leftovers from home or simple salads and sandwiches so you’re not tempted to binge on junk.

Follow this advice and you’ll stay well, even when everyone around you is suffering with sickness.

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