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Health Q&A: why do I keep getting sick?

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Dear Sean Dent:
I thought I was doing everything right. I get as much sleep as I can. I sanitize on entering and exiting a patient’s room. I try to avoid my more obviously infected colleagues. I try to eat healthy food and take a multi-vitamin every day. And yet I keep getting sick. WHY?!

Dear Sick:
“You are what you eat”

I think we have all heard and sang this wonderful little tune when it comes to our state of health. Garbage in = garbage out is the old adage. We all wonder about how and why we are so unhealthy sometimes, well it really does matter WHAT you eat. But, I’m here to shout about HOW you eat your food.

More specifically taking the time to eat during work. As an ICU nurse we rarely get to actually step away from the unit and eat, and eating a full-fledged meal is unheard of! OK. I retract that statement, just about any nurse that works within a hospital system, or on a nursing unit can relate to the ‘lunch’ analogy. A break? What’s that?

So because of our hectic daily occupational responsibilities and tasks we find ourselves eating ‘on the go’. In the ICU we often eat ‘while charting’ or we’re grabbing and ‘inhaling’ our food in front of the monitors. It’s not a far stretch to see patient’s charts, our nursing notes, the keyboard, stethoscope, pens, pencils, the computer’s mouse, mouse pad, and any other ‘nursing-type’ equipment occupying the same desk space (and having that picture repeated at every counter top available).

Keep in mind this is just for one nurse. How many nurses work on your unit at any given time. So this jumbled mess is all over the nurses station, or back in the break room, etc.

So we decide to kill two birds (or a flock of them) with one stone since there is no such thing as ‘extra time’. Either you eat, then check your orders, and possibly start your charting- which will put you even farther behind and more than likely push back the time you actually leave work. Or you don’t eat and keep working. I don’t know about you  but eventually the ‘no eating’ option catches up to you and you eventually pick the first option of eating while working.

Somehow we subconsciously forget about the myriad of microscopic enemies that are lurking on the counter, the desktop, the chart, etc. We end up eating a sandwich, or a piece of fruit right after we’ve just handled a chart, or typed on the computer, or charted something, etc.

Or better yet we forgot to bring utensils for our food, and sift through other means of eating. Who has used a tongue depressor to eat? (You know you’re guilty)

*Long pause to let you think about how many times you’re guilty of this very thing- nowhere did I mention ‘washing hands’*

So we basically just ‘ate’ something we are REALLY going to regret later. That type of regret will come in the form of an upset stomach (if you’re lucky), or more than likely a wonderful ‘head cold’ or if you’re really lucky – the flu.

And you wonder why we get sick?

I don’t know about you but I’d think twice about HOW you eat your food while you are working.  I’m just as guilty as the next person for using the ‘oh-so’ convenient hand sanitizers. Heck, I think I over-use them. But, when was the last time you washed your hands? Really. The next time you go to put any food substance in your mouth think about where your hand has been – and did you wash it.

Nurses have a really hard time practicing what we preach, while we are practicing!

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2 Responses to Health Q&A: why do I keep getting sick?

  1. I think after 30 years in health care my stomach is pretty tough.

    Not taking time to eat will definitely show up in performance later that day. Even if it is just 10 minutes in the break room, followed by a couple of deep breaths, and quick stretch/shoulder rolls-take the time.

  2. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    @ Dr. Dean Very true.Thanks for stopping and commenting!