Staying healthy while working in healthcare

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If you plan to work in healthcare or already do, you know what a great career it can be. Healthcare workers including nurses, doctors, physician assistants and technicians all have the chance to help people in need. In some cases, you may be helping someone on the worst day of their life – it’s rewarding to know you made a difference.

Regardless of whether you’re a nurse, doctor or tech, working in healthcare often involves caring for people who are injured or ill. It can sometimes be a challenge to maintain good health yourself. But as a medical worker, it’s essential you take good care of your physical, mental and emotional health in order to provide the best care possible for your patients.

Protecting yourself from infections

In your day to day life, you come into contact with lots of different bacteria and other germs, most of which will not make you sick. But in various types of healthcare settings including hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices you are likely to be exposed to viruses and bacteria, which cause different types of illnesses.

To reduce the likelihood of contracting an illness, you should take certain steps and precautions. One of the easiest ways to reduce your chances of getting sick is to wash your hands after coming in contact with any patients.

It is also crucial to follow all recommendations for personal protective equipment (PPE). Depending on the illness your patients have, they may require certain types of PPE. For example, if your patient has a virus, which may be transmitted through respiratory droplets, part of the PPE you should wear is a mask. Additional PPE may include gowns, eye shields, and gloves.

Some illnesses are preventable with proper immunizations. Illness, such as influenza, measles, chicken pox and hepatitis B all have available vaccines. If you work in the medical field, talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of various immunizations, and decide what is best for you.

Also, be sure you understand the risks of coming in contact with viruses in certain situations. For instances, there may be recommendations to avoid certain viruses if you are pregnant or have a decreased immune system.

Using proper body mechanics

Healthcare workers spend a lot of time on their feet. Depending on your responsibilities, you may be pushing equipment, moving patients or walking up and down stairs. To avoid injury, always use proper techniques when lifting, bending or pushing equipment.

If you are trying to move a heavy patient, don’t hesitate to get the help you need. Attempting to move a patient by yourself is one of the main ways healthcare workers get hurt. Most hospitals also have lifting equipment, which you can use.

Staying sane on the job

Your emotional health is just as important as your physical health. Working with patients who are ill can be rewarding, but it can also be draining at times. You may be dealing with patients who are demanding or difficult. In other cases, repeatedly seeing tragic situations can take its toll on your emotional well-being.

One thing you should be aware of is signs of burnout. Healthcare workers have high burnout rates due to the nature of their job. Most people who go into healthcare are compassionate. Their desire to help people is one of the reasons they choose healthcare. But not every patient can be helped, and that can be difficult to deal with at times.

Long hours and the stress of the job can lead to signs of burnout including depression, anxiety, a decrease in job satisfaction and a loss of empathy. Recognizing symptoms of burnout is the first step to getting help.

If you work in healthcare, you will benefit from learning to let go of things. That does not mean you don’t try to do your best. Instead, it means realizing your best is all you can do. You can’t always fix every situation, and not every patient will want your help or follow their treatment. Also, despite your best efforts, some patients will not survive. Sometimes you have to accept you did all you could and leave work at work.

Finding ways to reduce stress and enjoy your time away from the job is critical to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Whether you play an instrument, exercise, participate in sports or volunteer, find something you enjoy doing and do it on your days off. Find out what employee services your facility offers and use them if needed. For example, some hospitals have fitness centers, which employees can use. Counseling services and employee health facilities may also be available.

Practice what you preach

It is common for healthcare workers to try and take care of everyone else. But you also have to take care of yourself. Remember you cannot do your best for your patients, if you are unhealthy yourself. The better you feel, the more energy you have, and more energy often means you do a better job. Try to remember the advice you give your patients regarding living a healthy lifestyle. Do you follow the same advice?

Maintaining good health starts with the basics: eat healthy meals and snacks including fresh veggies, fruit, complex carbs and lean protein, and make sure you get enough exercise (aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days). Stop unhealthy habits, such as smoking or drinking too much alcohol. Stay current on your checkups and recommended medical tests. Letting a medical problem go because you are too busy can make it worse. Healthcare workers often work long shifts. Some workers also are on call or work the graveyard shift. It can be difficult to get enough rest when you are working overnight or getting interrupted by a pager. Do what you can to catch up on rest on your days off. Although it may not always be possible, try to get at least seven hours of sleep on most nights.

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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists and physician assistants – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.

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