10 reasons why nurses get sick

Image: Paul Gilligan | Photodisc | Getty Images

We clean everything we can get our hands on, but we still get sick. While cleaning everything be great for fighting off those nasty bugs that can wreak havoc on your immune system, there really is some truth to the saying, “Too much of a good thing is bad.”

Here are the top ten reasons why nurses get sick:
1. Not Washing Our Hands

We sure don’t practice what we preach all the time do we? C’mon admit it. Do you wash your hands every single time you go in and out of every patient room? Before and after every contact?

Also, are you washing your hands after each contact with a patients chart? How about the bedside glucometer?

2. Not Enough Sleep

Research has proven that sleep deprivation will lower your immune system. But, even without research on my side, think about how you and your body felt after not sleeping well for just one night! How about a whole string of nights during the week?

3. Too Much Work

Go right ahead and work those extra shifts. While your paycheck is inflating, your energy reserve is deflating. Guess what happens to your immune system when you get run down? Hey, don’t get me wrong, I like the overtime as much as the next nurse, but there has to be a balance between the extra shifts and taking care of yourself.

4. Not Drinking Enough Fluids

Who has time to drink? Well, non of us do, but can you say Urinary Tract Infection? I don’t know about you, but when your body is made up of more water than any other molecule (upwards of 65% water), that means something don’t you think?

5. Not Cleaning Our Stethoscope

This goes hand-in-hand with the hand washing, yes that was an intentional pun. Think about all the times you use your stethoscope and not clean it in between each patient use. Ever let someone else borrow your stethoscope? Where do you think their hands were? Did they clean the stethoscope? Did they wash their hands?

6. Using One Pen For All Our Patients

So you go into a patients room who is in precautions. Or better yet, it’s not your patient, but the patient is on your unit. Is there a dedicated writing device in the room? What about a marker? I already know there is usually a stethoscope in there!

7. Being Too Clean

This ranks up there with Antibiotic Resistance, and prescribing an antibiotic for the flu. We nurses can be very neat, tidy and super-clean freaks. We take cleaning to a new level sometimes. We wipe down all surfaces before our shift starts, including the mouse for the computer, the telephone, the cupboards, etc. We clean everything we can get our hands on. While this can be great for fighting off those nasty bugs that can wreak havoc on your immune system, there really is some truth to the saying, “Too much of a good thing is bad”.

If you ‘sanitize’ everything, what in the world is your immune system going to do when it actually has to work and fight off an infection??

8. Allowing Too Much Stress

Don’t let the ‘man’ get you down. There are a million-and-one things out there we cannot control and only a handful of things we can. Somehow we always concentrate on what is out of our control and we run it through our minds over and over again, until it turns ugly. Stress is a funny thing. It’s the one thing that if utilized correctly can help you break through some of the toughest obstacles, but if utilized too much or let it over-run your thoughts and your daily life will severely affect everything that matters in a negative way.

Oh – did I mention that too much stress also lowers your immune system?

9. A Night Out On The Town

Say it with me – ‘binge drinking’. No I’m not talking about the inebriated fog from your collegiate years. I’m talking about that one night you FINALLY get to hang out with your favorite crowd. You know, that one night when the planets serendipitously align and all parties have the same night off! Regardless of the day of the week, you all go out for a night of fun. Fun with a capital F! A night full of gluttony to the max, which includes some form of alcoholic substance. The only problem is you don’t know when to stop. So the drinking commences to the point where maybe parts of the night are a lil hazy.

The next morning, or a couple days later you start to get the sniffles, and the body aches. You have no idea where you got this cold? Not only does the increased amount of alcohol dampen your immune system, but guess what? Just imagine all the surfaces you touched, and all the hand washing you did not do while you were out partying? ‘Nuff said.

10. Arrogant Ignorance.

This goes for anyone who thinks they don’t belong in the same category as the rest of the public because you’re a nurse, because you ‘know better.’ You think since you are exposed to the ‘nasty’ bugs at work, there is NO WAY you’ll get the common head cold, or upper respiratory infection, or the seasonal flu!

I’m here to tell you that ignorance is not bliss ladies and gentlemen.

Did I miss any??

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14 Responses to 10 reasons why nurses get sick

  1. frogeyes10

    Well, I must must have been guilty of at least half of these since I am just getting over a nasty flu bug!

  2. @frogeyes10 glad you’re on the recovery!

  3. Shawnee LPN

    I really need to print this out and post it at work! We’re all passing around some URI stuff and I’m sure this would be an eye-opener for my co-workers. It sure was for me!!

  4. Sean Dent

    @ Shawnee It truly is amazing how we preach but rarely practice. Best of luck!

  5. Susan Fortier

    How about all those inconsiderate jerks we are forced to care for who cough and sneeze right in our faces? I’d say they’re a major cause of infection! I always point out to a patient or family member that does that to me now how rude and inconsiderate that is and that they should cover their cough or sneeze or we’ll all have it. I wouldn’t have done that as a new nurse but I’ve been a nurse long enough now to tell it like it is!

  6. Sean Dent

    @ Susan I guess we all need to do our part.

  7. Lee Ann

    We actually used to have a big bottle of echinacea in the break room. Somebody would call in sick, and everybody else would start popping those pills. I don’t know if it worked or not. lol.

    How about the OCD that nurses get when you go to the bathroom, then wash your hands well, turn off the water with a paper towel, then realize you have to touch the door handle? We settled that at work, we now have a sanitizer unit next to the door. We wash our hands, open the door, then put our hand under the sanitizer, get a glob of sanitizer, then walk out the door, rubbing in the sanitizer. Whew. I was getting so many UTIs from dehydrating at work that I actually started washing my hands both before and after going to the bathroom, cut down on the number of UTIs I got.

    • Sean Dent

      @Lee Ann Wow – can’t say I would have gone the echinacea route. lol

  8. Christi

    How about nurses that come to work with 101 fever, sneezing, coughing? Staffing is so short they are made to feel guilty when calling in. If you’re sick, you’re sick.

  9. kjkamk

    Sneezing and coughing in my face too. I politely ask them to cover their cough. One patient had the nerve to tell me it was part of my job. I also have a child, who I jokingly call my own personal vector. School age kids are always bringing something home!

  10. qacals

    Yes… you missed the TV remote control / nurse call button. These items are used by the patients and the family or visitors. I wipe these items every time I clean a room. Don’t forget the arms of the visitor’s chairs and the side rails on the bed. Ewwwww!

  11. Abby

    I’m a nursing student, and I write a health issues column for the school newspaper. The October article that I just submitted was on cold and flu prevention, so I’ve basically seen a lot of the blogs out there. You’re definitely right about nurse being extreme in their OCD in this aspect

  12. usthatswho1

    I have to agree with my Microbiology professor and say KEEP YOUR HANDS WASHED AND KEEP THEM OFF OF YOUR FACE! It’s a bad habit that gives direct access to your body via mouth and mucous membranes.