As much as it might be useful, nurses are not immune to disease and sickness. However, unlike most other workers, when a nurse gets sick there are far-reaching consequences. If they go to work, they can pass those illnesses on to patients (which is even worse if that patient has a compromised immune system) or colleagues (meaning that more nurses are sick). Taking time off is recommended, but when there is already a nursing shortage, this can lead to issues of its own.
Of course, if a nurse gets sick it can’t be helped and they’ll need to take whatever time they must to recover. Yet wouldn’t it be better if they didn’t get sick in the first place? This might sound impossible, but there are some things that nurses can do to improve their health and reduce the chances of becoming unwell, and this is of benefit to everyone. Read on to find out more.
Eat Healthy Food
Eating healthily is at the heart of anyone’s journey when it comes to reducing sickness. If we eat a well-balanced diet full of the correct nutrients, our immune systems will be strong and able to fight off infection and illness. Not only that, but our bodies will work better in general, with stronger, more flexible joints and muscles, healthier hearts and other organs, and even clearer skin. All in all, eating the right kinds of food is an easy way to keep healthy, and it’s something everyone should do more of.
Yet for nurses, it’s not always as easy as it is for others. Nurses work long shifts, and sometimes they don’t get as long a break as they might like. This can mean that meals are entirely skipped – which is never recommended – or that the nurse must grab a quick snack from a vending machine due to not having any other options. These snacks will usually be sugary or processed and, therefore, are a bad idea in themselves. Plus, after a long shift like that and knowing they must do it all again the next day, the idea of cooking a healthy meal when they get home doesn’t often appeal, and a microwave dinner, unhealthy snack, or takeout is eaten instead, assuming anything is eaten at all.
What can be done? One good option is to batch cook healthy food when you have the time to do it. That way, you can simply heat something up and you don’t have to cook when you’re tired. It’s also good to take your own food to work to ensure you have something good to eat when you can. Don’t skip meals either; if all else fails, a quick protein shake, or smoothie can be enough if you don’t rely on them for every meal.
Get Some Exercise
Exercise falls into a lot of the same brackets as eating healthily for nurses. Firstly, nurses don’t always have a lot of time to exercise every day (which is what is recommended) due to their long hours, as mentioned above. Secondly, again as we talked about with food, they will be exhausted after their day at work, and so exercise is the last thing they’ll want to do. Yet, it is one of the best ways to stay fit and healthy, which is essential for nurses.
One option is to wait until you have a day off and exercise then. Nurses work several long days in a row but will then have three or four days off to get ready for their next set of shifts. That means there is time to exercise in whatever way suits you. It might be going to the gym or joining a class (as long as it has flexible timings, since you won’t find it easy to attend a weekly class due to the different shift patterns you’ll work as a nurse) or working out at home by following a video or spending ten minutes running up and down the stairs, for example.
Work On Your Skills
When we talk about staying healthy as a nurse, most of the time that means your physical health. However, nursing can be hard mentally and emotionally, and it’s wise to work on these elements as well. One way to do this is to take time out to study – the more you can learn and hone your skills, the more resilient you will become due to added confidence.
There are many ways to do this, and a lot of them can be picked up while working. Others, however, will require a conscious decision to learn. This includes going back to school to obtain new qualifications.
If you have ambitions as a nurse and you want to move forward in your career, choosing to undertake studies for a new qualification is not only a good idea but also a necessary one. Taking an online AGNP MSN program will help you, for example, if you want to work with older people, is critical; it will give you the skills you need and will ensure you can apply for the right position without any issues.
Working on your skills, whether you choose to do so in a formal way, giving you the chance to advance your career, earn more money, and have more flexibility, or you choose to do so by reading journals and working on your weaknesses in your own time and in your own way, means you can take some time out from the busy life of a nurse and focus on your learning. Although it’s still medical knowledge, you can use it as a good chance to slow down for a while. This, plus the fact that you’re learning will be good for your mental health.
Get Enough Sleep
Something that can often lead to sickness for nurses is a lack of sleep. Again, it’s shift work that can be to blame for this. If you work for 12 hours, then you add commuting time to get to and from the hospital, as well as any time needed to spend with your friends and family, on hobbies, and eating well and exercising, you may find there is little time left for sleeping. Not getting enough sleep for one night is bad enough, and we’ve all done it before. It will have left you feeling tired and irritable the next day, unable to focus. However, if that happens several nights in a row, not only will it be detrimental to your productivity, but it could put patients at risk, and it will certainly harm your immune system.
When the immune system is weakened, it is less able to successfully fight off disease. That means you are more likely to get sick, especially if you are around sick people, as you would be when you’re a nurse. It’s clear in that case that getting enough sleep is vital, but how is it possible when you are a nurse?
To begin with, work backwards. Ideally, you should get around seven to eight hours of sleep each night (or day if you’re working a night shift) to be healthy. What time do you need to get up to be ready for work? Knowing this and then calculating what time you must go to bed to get enough sleep will help you understand how to plan out your time. Try to stick to the bedtime you create for yourself if you can – it won’t always be easy or even possible, but if you can do it most of the time, that will certainly help you.
Sometimes this will mean sacrificing time with family or friends, or it might mean not taking part in your hobby occasionally. Nurses will have to sacrifice this kind of thing from time to time if they want to be productive and healthy. The key is to use your time off wisely so you can make up for the things you had to miss when you were working. This might sound like a juggling act, but if you can do it, it will help you achieve all your goals and even improve your work-life balance.
Drink Plenty of Water
Due to being busy, many nurses forget to drink enough water during their shift, at least until they realize they are extremely thirsty. The problem is, by the time the body tells you it is thirsty and needs water, you are already dehydrated; this is a much later symptom of the condition than most people think. That’s why it’s usually recommended to sip water continuously throughout the day. For nurses, this is crucial if they want to stay healthy. Have a reusable water bottle with you or, if that’s not possible, in a place you can easily get to, and have a drink every fifteen to twenty minutes. Refill the bottle as often as you need to and drink through your shift.
When you can do this, you shouldn’t feel thirsty, and you will give your body the water it needs to stay healthy. Not only that, but you’ll also stave off the symptoms of dehydration which, apart from a feeling of thirst, include headaches and an inability to concentrate.