Careers in the healthcare industry are on the rise! From nurses to aides to nursing assistants, the demand for healthcare workers continues to explode, especially as major demographic shifts take place among older generations in the U.S.
If you or someone you know works in a healthcare setting, don’t miss these 6 essential health and fitness tips:
Counteract prolonged standing
Nurses in settings like hospitals, nursing homes, and doctor’s offices often find themselves standing for hours at a time during their shift. While it’s great to avoid lengthy bouts of sitting, prolonged standing can have negative musculoskeletal effects too resulting in leg, knee, and foot pain, varicose veins, backaches, leg cramps, and leg muscle fatigue.
Nurses with standing-heavy roles should practice intermittently sitting and stretching throughout the day as well as elevate their feet after work to help support healthy blood flow in the legs. Orthotic aids like compression hose and gel shoe insoles can also help prevent foot pain and circulation issues.
Practice safe lifting protocols
Did you know that nursing is one of the most injury-prone jobs in the U.S.? Nurses and nursing assistants experience more musculoskeletal disorders than even warehouse baggage handlers and construction workers because of the sheer amount of heavy lifting they have to do with patients – from helping patients up from a fall to repositioning and transferring them.
In addition to practicing OSHA-compliant heavy lifting techniques (lift from a squatting position, use your legs and maintain a neutral back), experts recommend that nursing staffs acquire appropriate lifting devices to offset the strain on their backs. These may include transfer belts, Hoyer lifts, and transfer shower and wheelchairs.
It might seem like a nursing job is exercise in itself, however, getting an uninterrupted 30 minutes or more of aerobic exercise a day isn’t always feasible on the job. Routine physical fitness not only supports better health outcomes for nurses themselves (and reduces the risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and more), but it reinforces the body to hand the physical demands of nursing work.
As often as possible, nurses should engage in exercise whether it’s working out at the gym, attending a Zumba class, going for a job, hiking, playing tennis, you name it. For aches and pains that come with nursing that might discourage exercise, nurses can utilize aids like shoe supports that are good for high arches, plantar fasciitis, and ball-of-foot pain. They can also practice flexibility and strength-building exercises like yoga, tai chi, and resistance band work.
Good hygiene is ingrained in nurses during school, well before they hit the hospital hallways, however, it’s an important reminder, especially around cold and flu season. In addition to washing hands regularly, nurses should remember to heed caution when shaking hands with patients, family, and other staff.
Research has shown that bacteria carried in the droplets that are expelled by patients when they sneeze or cough can stick around a lot longer than previously thought. While most bacteria dissipate within 10 seconds, other infectious pathogens could possibly stick around for 10 minutes. Healthcare workers should consider waiting at least 10 seconds before approaching a patient who has coughed or sneezed, and always offer patients tissues to use so they’re not sneezing and coughing straight into the air.
You may be surprised to learn that a common source of stress for nurses on the job is assault – both physical and verbal. Most recently, violence from patients in hospital settings was on the rise with more and more nurses experiencing physical attacks like biting, scratching, and hitting, as well as verbal ones. Not only is the experience itself stressful, but the recovery and lost work hours take an emotional toll too.
Nurses can team up with hospital administrators and OSHA representatives to coordinate practices and protocols that help prevent assault in a healthcare setting. These might include training in de-escalation strategies, coordinating support from local police enforcement, establishing better standards for nurse protection, and engaging in awareness drills.
While providing care for patients and making a real impact in other people’s lives has its benefits, a nursing job can still be a purveyor of stress whether it derives from assault, long shifts, lack of sleep, or poor health conditions. A little self-care can go a long way when it comes to taking care of yourself so you can be an even better caregiver.
Small stress-relieving self-care tactics might include getting a massage each month, practicing mindfulness-cultivating activities like yoga, eating a healthy diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, going for walks out in nature, or utilizing aromatherapy at home.