Let’s face it — healthcare workers are often better at taking care of others than taking care of themselves. In a certain light, this makes sense. Between the sometimes-grueling shifts and the physical, mental, and emotional demands of working in the medical industry, healthcare professionals are encouraged to put the needs of patients before their own.
While this works in the short term, the long-term effects of not taking care of yourself as a healthcare worker can be devastating. From burnout to stress-induced medical conditions that take you from being a healthcare worker to a patient yourself, ignoring your own health and well-being can be harmful to your mental and physical health.
Self-care is truly the name of the game when it comes to protecting your health and it comes in many forms. Whether investing in specialized products like a healthcare professional-specific cuticle treatment or hand mask, making sure to spend your time off truly relaxing or even watching your caffeine intake, there are lots of ways to make sure you stay healthy when working to keep your patients healthy, too.
1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Staying hydrated isn’t just something you tell your dehydrated patients to do — a 2010 National Institutes of Health study found that being dehydrated can negatively affect your cognition. Avoiding dehydration-induced cognitive issues is especially important for healthcare workers who may have to make big decisions about their patients’ health.
Fortunately, there are tons of fun hydration hacks to make sure you are getting all the water you need, as NurseChoice outlined in this great post. From infusing your water to eating lots of high water content fruits and vegetables throughout the day, getting and staying hydrated doesn’t have to be a chore.
One of the best tips on NurseChoice’s list was to drink one cup of water for every caffeinated beverage you drink, which brings us to our next tip.
2. Healthcare- Caffeine Is Not Your Friend
It should come as no surprise that a 2012 study from Dunkin’ Donuts and CareerBuilder® found that nursing is one of the top 10 professions that drinks the most coffee in the United States.
While nobody would argue that you should lay off the coffee entirely, it’s very important to make sure you’re not drinking too much caffeine in a day or at one time. According to the Mayo Clinic, an adult should drink no more than 400 mg (roughly four cups of coffee, which are 100 mg apiece) in a day, and no more than 200 mg (two cups of coffee) in one sitting.
Beyond 400 mg, caffeine toxicity — a condition that can have major health risks — sets in. As the Healthworks Collective noted, signs of caffeine toxicity include feeling jittery, irritable or restless. More severe symptoms include dehydration, stomach cramps, hallucinations, hypertension and even ulcers.
If you need your coffee, tea or energy drink fix but want to cut back on your caffeine intake, there’s lots of tricks you can use. You can brew decaffeinated or “half-caf” pots of coffee (half decaf, half regular), drink green tea or non-caffeinated herbal tea or switch your energy drink out for seltzer.
3. Healthcare- Protect Your Time Off
There are few things more important in any field than finding a work-life balance. Unfortunately, this is much easier said than done for those in the medical industry, for whom working 60- to 80-hour weeks is common.
It can be very hard to disconnect from work when you’re so physically exhausted from a long shift that you feel like you could collapse. Luckily, there’s some tips and tricks to achieving work-life balance for healthcare professionals so that you can protect your time off and truly relax when you’re not on the clock.
This list posted on the healthcare website Edumed provides some great tips, including asking your support network or supervisor for help, learning to say no to additional responsibilities, sleeping well and enough, delegating tasks that you specifically do not need to do and, perhaps most importantly, using your vacation time!
4. Healthcare- Eat Smarter
There’s nothing more tempting in the middle or at the end of a grueling shift than a greasy fast-food meal. While it’s OK to indulge in junk food now and then, relying on that kind of food as your main source of fuel and nutrition is unhealthy in more ways than one.
Switching from foods high in empty calories and trans fats to “whole foods” that give you more bang for your buck is an easy, nutritious, and yummy way to take care of your health — and can provide more energy for those long, difficult shifts.
Love the saltiness of fries? Switch it with edamame, the popular Japanese soybean snack that is crunchy, salty, and delicious. Need something on the go? Try Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs or string cheese — all of which are as satisfying as they are nutritious.