Nurse, Heal Thyself!

Nurses are often so busy taking care of others that they neglect their own health in the process. Unfortunately, the fast-paced schedule of travel nursing can further exacerbate this phenomenon. However, it’s a trend well worth correcting. Why? Because neglecting your health directly impacts your ability to do your job to the best of your abilities. Let’s take a closer look at why it’s so important for travel nurses to prioritize their personal health, along with three simple steps in the right direction.

Healthier Nurses = Better Care

Nurses consistently top Gallup’s list of “most trusted” professionals. In fact, 80 percent of people cited nurses as having very high “honesty and ethical standards.” In short, patients place their trust in nurses, and nurses in return commit to providing the very best quality of care. This relationship is the backbone of the healthcare industry, and will continue to be so as nurses grow in their roles.

Because of the demanding nature of the profession, nurses are particularly vulnerable to everything from work-related injuries to back pain and other ailments. Factor in the impact stress and less-than-optimal lifestyle behaviors, and the problem grows more severe.

Unfortunately, failure to safeguard your own health can have a negative impact on the health of patients. In fact, recent studies published in the American Journal of Nursing and Clinical Nurse Specialist link the health of nurses with the health of their patients. How much so? Not only did nearly 20 percent of nurses exhibit signs of depression and 75 percent expressed being in pain on the job, but researchers further determined that risks to patients increased by roughly 20 percent while receiving care from ailing nurses.

Three Ways to Safeguard Your Health

While the pressures of nursing are very real, there are some tactics travel nurses can adopt toward improving their own health and, by proxy, the health of their patients. In addition to the usual suspects like eating right and exercising, consider these three tips:

1. Sleep More

When you don’t get enough sleep, you miss out on this critical restorative state. This can cause everything from fatigue to declines in fitness. Unfortunately, lack of sleep can become a vicious cycle with both physical and emotional fallout. Most people need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. If you’re falling short of that, your health is likely suffering.

Commit to sleeping better by avoiding caffeine in the afternoon, setting up a comfortable “sleep zone” in each new living environment, and keeping technology out of the bedroom.

2. Get Your Flu Shot

Nurses feel compelled to care for others even when they’re own health is suffering. Many even refuse to take sick days so as not to inconvenience their colleagues and patients. One easy way to avoid preventable sick days? Get your flu shot.

Think about it this way: You encourage your patients, family members and friends to get vaccinated from the flu. Heed you own advice and do the same.

3. Take Your Vitamin D

Vitamin D has profound benefits for promoting bone health while preventing heart disease, diabetes, depression, cancer and even cognitive decline. Unfortunately, most people suffer from lack of vitamin D, which can be hard to obtain naturally — particularly in the winter months and in northern regions.

While time in the sun is one way to soak in some vitamin D, in many cases it’s simply not enough, which is why supplements are so important.

Health and happiness go hand-in-hand, as do happiness and productivity. Making changes today can not only help you be a healthier person, but also a better nurse.

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