4 Ways Healthcare Workers Can Care for Themselves
Your career as a healthcare worker can involve working with people who are injured, incapacitated or sick. It can be demanding to keep up with the needs of patients who are unable to care for themselves. That’s why you must take the best care of yourself.
It can be challenging to take the time or even remember that self-care is so important in your line of work. Long, demanding hours on the job often mean that you put yourself on the back burner. This can cause you to feel burnt out due to too much stress.
Here are four ways you can provide for yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally so that you can give the best care to your patients.
1. Maintain a Healthy Diet
It can be tempting to reach for a convenient snack or meal from the vending machine during a long shift. That’s fine if the food you choose isn’t loaded with fat or sugar. Consider bringing healthy snacks with you to work, such as yogurt, nuts, fruit and vegetables. If you eat in the cafeteria, choose healthy options that contain whole grains and are low in fat and high in protein. Be sure you drink lots of water on your shift — even though you may need more bathroom breaks, it’s essential that you stay hydrated.
A daily probiotic, multivitamin or eye health supplement can support your healthy eating habits and fill in the gaps where nutrition may be lacking.
2. Use Proper Lifting Techniques
Spending long hours on your feet and lifting heavy equipment or patients takes a toll on your back and joints. Proper lifting techniques can save you from injury. Stand as close as possible to the person or object you’re lifting. As you lift, hold in your abdominal muscles and keep your back straight, using your legs and arms. Distribute the weight as evenly as possible.
If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Hoists can also help prevent injury when they are available.
3. Watch for Signs of Burnout
Medical workers are subject to high levels of stress and long hours on the job. It’s easy to become burned out, and staying alert for the signs is vital. You may notice:
- Energy depletion or exhaustion
- Feelings of cynicism toward your job
- Lower resilience
- Disturbed sleep
- Feeling or being less effective at your job
Caring for others, especially those who are very ill or infirm, is hard — particularly when you do so regularly. It can take an emotional toll on healthcare workers. If you’re experiencing signs of burnout, reach out to someone. Confide in a trusted peer, talk to your supervisor about reducing your hours temporarily or permanently, spend time with a friend or family member or talk to a therapist. The best way for you to provide quality care is to first care for yourself.
4. Protect Yourself From Getting Sick
It can seem next to impossible to avoid getting infections, especially if you work directly with patients. It’s crucial to do all you can to protect yourself.
The most important step to defending yourself from germs is washing your hands. Wash thoroughly for 20 seconds, making sure to scrub the entire hand and in between fingers. Wash your hands after tending to patients, handling hazardous materials and using the bathroom. Remember to wash before eating or drinking.
Wear the proper PPE for the task you perform, including face shields, gowns, gloves and masks. Consult with your doctor about vaccines and consider getting ones for which you are eligible. Also, ask your doctor whether you have an increased risk around certain bacteria or viruses. Exposure can be an issue if you are immunocompromised or pregnant.
As a healthcare worker, you devote your life to giving the very best to those you attend to. Although it can be hard to remember sometimes, you deserve the best care as well. If you give your own health and well-being the same value you do for your patients, then you’ll be capable of providing excellent care at work.