Nurses’ Health: Caring For The Caregivers
Nurses are part of one of the biggest segments of the healthcare industry and they play an extremely important role. The right caring for a patient post-treatment is crucial for their recovery, and nurses are well aware of that. They ensure that they provide the patients with everything they need, right from caring to counselling, to ensure their good health and speedy recovery. However, even after knowing everything about health and healthcare, most of these caring angels fail to take care of their own health.
The healthcare industry is one of the most hazardous environments to work in. Nurses in this industry are constantly exposed to a complex variety of health and safety hazards in the course of their work. Hazards range from biological exposure to disease-causing organisms such as tuberculosis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); exposure to chemicals such as glutaraldehyde and ethylene dioxide; risks of needle-stick injuries causing HIV, hepatitis, etc; Long working hours causing musculoskeletal issues; moving heavy patients that may lead to physical discomfort; and prolonged shift work causes stress and adds to the health issues.
In a report published by the WHO, the disease burden caused by percutaneous sharps injuries among healthcare workers was found to be three million per year. Maximum cases of hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV among healthcare workers were reported to be due to needle stick injuries. It is very unfortunate that approximately 1000 healthcare workers die annually from occupational HIV, which can and should have been prevented. Despite having the resources and the knowledge, almost 80% of healthcare workers remain unimmunized (against Hepatitis B) in many parts of the world.
In addition to this, nurses have a higher risk of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases as well. Many nurses are forced to lead an unhealthy lifestyle due to their long shift hours, busy-paced work, and the stress of maintaining a work-life balance. With so many responsibilities, it becomes easy to understand how self-care becomes their last priority.
Maintaining the health of the nurses became all the more difficult during the pandemic with the extreme workload, minimal information about the virus, and the fear of contracting the disease. Therefore, we made certain provisions in the hospital itself. We provided all our nurses and staff members with vitamin C supplements and adequate protein to ensure their immunity is boosted, we gave them constant reminders to drink water and gave them enough breaks between shifts to rest and destress. Bio breaks were given to use the washroom and return with fresh PPEs keeping in mind menstrual hygiene and prevention of UTIs and renal calculi. We also checked their weight regularly to make sure they are well-nourished and also are regularly screened for COVID-19 so that if infected, they can be treated on time. The nurses who had turned positive were provided free and best care to recover.
Apart from that, we also arranged several diversions such as poster competitions, counselling events to take care of nurses’ grievances, and several other provisions were made to ensure that the mental health of the nurses was also taken care of.
I agree that nursing is a noble profession and that you are expected to keep your patients as the top priority, but it is equally important to take care of yourself because you can look after your patients only when you are fit and healthy. Set aside some time for exercise, take care of your nourishment, take vitamin C and protein supplements to boost your immunity, get enough rest and sleep, practice meditation to maintain good mental health, report to a physician in your hospital if you are feeling uneasy or unwell, ask for help whenever you feel overwhelmed by work and lastly, give yourself the priority and importance you need and deserve.
By Jessica D’Souza
Chief Nursing Officer
Global Hospital, Mumbai