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7 Tips for Staying a Healthy Travel Nurse During Flu Season

Nobody wants to get sick, but the sniffles hop around the world more than the Easter bunny during the cold and flu season. And nurses are easy prey for colds because they provide direct care to patients. Nurses know about great aseptic techniques and health promotion practices, but other measures can keep the flu bunny in his warren.

  • Get your flu shot

A lot of facilities require you to get your flu shot, but it’s not a bad idea. This season’s flu shot may not cover all this season’s strands, but every bit of protection helps.

  • Get plenty of sleep

My wife doesn’t have any problem getting to sleep and staying asleep, but I don’t always have the best sleeping track record. Travel nurses who work 12-hour shifts may wrestle with the sleep gorilla just like me, but lack of sleep can weaken your immune system, so try to get as much consistent and restful sleep as you can get.

  • Watch your diet

A lot of us have started a New Year’s resolution involving diet and exercise, and that’s not a bad thing this time of year. But you may not think of water as part of your diet. It is. You should drink as much water and eat as many fresh fruit and vegetables that you can to supercharge your immune system.

  • Exercise

This is the second half of many New Year’s resolutions, and there are several gyms that stay open late or are even open for twenty-four hours to help you get a little exercise. I’m not always the best at keeping active, but even a little exercise goes a long way.

  • Manage stress

Even though travel nursing is rewarding, tending to patients has an inherent stress level, and stress affects your health in a heap of ways: headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, anxiety, and 75-90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments (according to 2014 study). Find ways to decompress where ever you can. Try yoga or meditation. My wife patrons a masseuse college to get the occasional massage. You’d be surprised how much a little down time helps.

  • Wash your hands

Okay, this is something nurses do on a daily basis, but it bears mentioning. Washing hands prevents germs from spreading, so make sure you wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds as often as possible—no overusing antibacterial hand sanitizer because they only work a few times in succession, and they don’t work at all if you have visible dirt or grime on your hands. When you do wash hands, don’t miss your wrists and under your nails. And even if you use frequent hand-washing, don’t touch your face or mouth and make sure you clean your pens, pen light, stethoscope, and other devices. One tool many people forget are keyboards. I clean mine a regular basis and I’m usually the only one using it. Still, particles get stuck between the keys, so make sure you clean your keyboards.

  • Stay in bed

A lot of us don’t take it easy when we’re sick because we have things to do, and nurses have the added pressure of taking care of their patients, so it’s easy for nurses to think they have to work their shifts no matter what. My wife will try to go to work wearing a mask, while hacking up a lung. She thinks she’s superhuman. And she’s right—but don’t tell her I said so. Nurses are the closest things we have to superheroes, but if you’re sick, stay home. You’ll keep your germs to yourself and you’ll get rid of the flu bunny faster if you take a day or two and rest.

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