August 16, 2016

7 Habits All Nurses Should Pick Up

7 Habits All Nurses Should Pick Up

Written By: Dawn Papandrea

When your work revolves around the ill/sick  for a living, as many nursing professions do, it's important to be vigilant about staying healthy.

Interacting with patients, touching surfaces in patient examination rooms, and working long shifts all contribute to a higher risk of getting sick. That's why seasoned nurses take the following precautions to fight off germs and stay healthy.

Take Your Vitamins On A Daily Basis

Once you become a nurse, getting in the habit of taking a daily multivitamin is a great idea. You might also want to chew on an extra vitamin C supplement. Some medical researchers also recommend paying attention to your gut health by boosting your probiotic intake. It's estimated that 70 percent of your immune system is in your gastrointestinal tract. You can either take a probiotic supplement, or eat foods like Greek yogurt to keep that part of your body staying strong.

While there's no definitive proof that vitamins and supplements will protect you from colds and flus, many nurses believe that it does make a difference. Plus, you can take a variety of vitamins to support different parts of the body, which is never bad.

Wash Your Hands, Wash Your Hands, And Don’t Forget To Wash Your Hands

Since we were young, we’ve always been told to wash our hands before and after meals and after we’ve gone to the restroom, but nurses should be washing their hands even more. Even if you're diligent about wearing gloves, get in the routine of washing your hands before and after all patient examinations.

As the Center for Disease Control and Prevention explains, hand washing can help prevent about 30% of diarrhea-related illnesses and about 20% of respiratory infections, as well as skin and eye infections. Soap and water are a nurse's best friends. In a pinch, keeping hand sanitizer in your pocket works well too.

Keep Your All Your Belongings Clean

Whether it's your stethoscope or your phone, you should be cleaning your belongings and work surfaces with a sanitizing wipe at least once daily.

Keep in mind, you can also pick up germs from computer keyboards, charts, or other frequently touched objects in a medical office or hospital. Droplets from coughs, sneezes, and other bodily fluids travel further than you think! Taking off your scrubs as soon as you arrive home, and washing them in hot water and color safe bleach will help keep the germs away. Then, use your dryer's highest setting to ensure that any remaining bacteria is removed.

Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Sleep

Most American adults aren't sleeping enough. If you throw night shifts and sporadic work schedules into the mix, and it's an even bigger challenge.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that you get at least 7-9 hours of sleep, and it's no joke. Not only is it great for your immunity, your health, and your energy level, but you'll perform your job better, too. If you're a night nurse try to take short nap breaks throughout the shift, if possible. If you have to sleep during the day, use blackout shades in your room to keep out the sunlight.

Related: How I Discovered The Meaning Of Nurse Burnout

Don’t Forget To Eat And Stay Hydrated

It sounds silly, but when you're caught up in a busy 12-hour shift, you might forget to stop and take care of yourself. Sipping water throughout the day is essential to stay hydrated, and eating healthy snacks and meals is important for your overall health and immunity. Just grabbing a chocolate bar from the vending machine or loading up on caffeine isn't the best way to sustain your energy. Pack protein-rich snacks such as a granola bar or an apple so you always have something healthy within reach.

As the saying goes, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Get Your Yearly Flu Shot

There's a good possibility that you might even be required to get a flu shot every year if you're working in a hospital, but even if you're not mandated, make sure you get vaccinated.

As a nurse, you've likely seen first hand how serious the flu can be, so don't wait until the season is in full swing. As soon as the vaccine becomes available in the fall, make time to get it. In many ways, it's your duty as a health care professional. As the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website says, "By setting a good example and spreading flu facts (instead of the flu itself) among your colleagues and patients, you have the opportunity to save even more lives."

Wear A Mask

You may not like to cover your face, or feel it's impersonal, but if you're dealing with patients who have infectious diseases, or if it's in the height of flu season or some other outbreak, put on a mask. The extra layer of protection can help stop germs from entering your mouth and nose. When you don't have a mask on hand, try to breathe out and not inhale if a person near you sneezes or coughs.

By making these precautions a part of your regular routine, you'll be doing all you can to avoid getting sick. Staying healthy will allow you to keep doing what you do best, caring for your patients.

Your job is to take care of your patients, though, taking the time to care for yourself is just as important.

Next Up: Must-Know Tips To Stay Emotionally Healthy As A Nurse

Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based freelance writer who specializes in personal finance, parenting, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in Family Circle,, Parents,, and more.