As a nurse, you face a great deal of situations that can cause you and your patients harm—a daily fact that can fry your nerves! A hectic schedule that includes crazy drivers on your morning commute, a five minute lunch and extra heavy patient loads, hazards to you and those around you seem right around the corner. What’s a nurse to do when he is beset by threats from all sides? Well, make a list, of course!
That’s right. If you’re looking for ways to make your life safer and healthier, both at work and at home, we have 20 ways for you to put your anxieties to rest. Don’t ignore these powerful tips that could end up saving a life (including yours), today and 10 years down the road.
“What Are 10 Things I Can Do to Stay Safe at Work?”
1. To prevent needlesticks, make sure you use the safe technology that has been developed in recent years to cover over sharps. Don’t try to circumvent the safety features for the sake of time or convenience. If your facility doesn’t use safe needles, petition to get them to switch to the type that has a cap to protect you from inadvertent sticks.
2. When lifting patients, push—don’t pull—to protect your back. Get as close to the bed as possible to prevent strain and don’t extend your arms very far from your core.
3. If you’re lifting something from the ground, always lift with your knees. Get down into a squat position, pull the weight close to you and push off with your legs to lift. This can save your back from the constant ache so familiar to nurses.
4. Violence in the workplace is not uncommon for nurses, unfortunately. Whether it’s an amorous drunk or an old lady with dementia who takes a swing at you, you need to be on your guard when dealing with patients. Always bring a coworker along if you think a situation might get out of hand.
5. Continuing with personal safety with patients, don’t let the patient come between you and the door so that you have an easy exit route. Consider putting your ID lanyard and stethoscope in your pocket to discourage grabbing.
6. Latex allergies are increasingly common, and you can do a few things to help protect yourself from becoming another number. Use gloves made from synthetic materials and without powder, which can cause allergies. If your facility doesn’t already take these precautions, petition them to do so, because latex allergies can develop even if you’ve shown no signs of it.
7. Medication safety is important for both patients and nurses. You learned it in nursing school, but it bears repeating: Always check the five rights. Check that it’s the right medication, right dose, right time, right route and right patient. Only with focused attention to these rules will you safely administer medications.
8. If at all possible, don’t let yourself get distracted during med pass. Studies have shown that nurses who get distracted make more errors. If you happen to get distracted, come back to your task and double-check everything to prevent an error.
9. Patients who are at risk for falls should be clearly communicated to ancillary staff. Use the bed alarms that are built into bed or freestanding alarms that you can connect to a bed or a seat to alert you if the patient decides to get up. Only with this technology can you prevent falls.
10. Make it a habit to round on your patients at least every two hours. If you buddy up with the nursing assistant on your shift, she can check on the patients on the odd hours and you can check on them during the even hours. This will prevent falls and alert you to your patient’s condition every hour.
“What Are 10 Things I Can Do to Stay Safe at Home?”
1. Nurses who work all shifts should try to eat breakfast before their shift begins. This is true even for nurses who work evenings or nights, as eating “breakfast” is a way to give you the energy you need to get through the shift. It doesn’t have to be breakfast food, but it should be something light that won’t overtax your digestive system.
2. You’re on your feet much of the day, and that might make you think you don’t need to exercise. The opposite is actually true. You need to increase your heart rate for at least 30 minutes per day, five days per week. This will help keep obesity at bay and decrease your risk for heart disease and Diabetes.
3. When you’re on shift, it’s so easy to hit the vending machine for a quick snack, but this will derail any weight loss or healthful eating plan you’re trying to maintain. Instead, pack some nutritious snacks to take to work. Bring an apple or a banana, both of which are quick to eat on a short break, to keep you from getting hungry.
4. Limit the amount of alcohol you consume. Sometimes nurses like to cut loose at the end of the day, but drinking to excess can cause personal problems, difficulty at work and chronic health conditions. In addition, it will add on the pounds and can lead to poor decision making. If you want to imbibe, do so in moderation.
5. As a nurse, you’re accustomed to living on the go. It’s easy to call for a pizza, order some hamburgers or microwave-cook. However, if you want to eat healthfully and encourage your family to do the same, focus on whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Shop in the fresh fruit and vegetable areas of your grocery store for maximum health benefits.
6. You need fun and relaxation! That’s an order! Consider taking a yoga class to get the added benefit of relaxation to go along with some physical activity. It may seem like too much to add another commitment to your schedule, but a class could be valuable time that you take just for yourself. Plus, you never know what interesting people you can meet. Cultivating activities and friendships outside of work are key for keeping burn out at a bay.
7. When you’re off duty—be off duty! Finding a way to forget about nursing when you’re not in your scrubs will ensure that when you’re back on shift you’re focused and energized. Make time to plan ahead for your “weekend” to ensure that time spent with your loved ones is quality time that everyone will enjoy and remember fondly. Nursing is an important job, but remember it’s your job. It’s not your life!
8. Sleep is often something that nurses take for granted. If you work night shift, sleep becomes an even more pressing issue. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per day. Don’t laugh! You need to make sure that you get this amount, even when working off shifts, to keep yourself healthy. Sleep and fatigue can make even simple tasks difficult, like dodging other half-asleep drivers on your morning commute!
9. Nurses are horrible patients, as a general rule. You lecture your patients on the importance of seeing the doctor, but many nurses avoid the routine care that could keep them healthy. Make sure to see your doctor at least once a year to keep up to date on your blood work and to discuss any health issues you may have. Ignoring your body is a sure way to wind up a patient in your own hospital. Do you really want that?
10. Sometimes the stress of nursing can bring you down, but you need to realize that you’re helping people and making a difference. Do what you have to do to maintain an overall positive attitude. If you feel yourself getting dragged down in negative thoughts, consider seeing a counselor to help you find your way through your feelings. It could make all the difference on the floor and in your life.
“Safety Tips for Nurses” by Paula Kriner, Healthday, March 2012
“6 Medication Safety Tips for Nurses,” The Nursing Show
“Personal Safety Tips” by Lieutenant Nola Brown, Nurse Wellness, Vanderbilt Nursing
“Emergency Nurses Release Holiday Safety Tips,” Nursezone, November 2009
“Tips for a Safe and Healthy Life,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 2011