Protecting Yourself and Others from COVID-19: What We Can All Learn from Nurses

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Healthcare professionals, including nurses, have been on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic this year. Nurses have been some of the most affected by the virus since they are often the people who have the most contact with affected patients. And while hospitals and other healthcare facilities are taking great precautions to keep nurses safe with personal protective equipment (PPE) and strategies in place to reduce direct contact wherever possible, nurses have lives outside of work too and need to make sure that they are also doing as much as they can in their personal lives to keep themselves and their loved ones safe from the coronavirus. As front-line workers who’re at the highest risk of infection, nurses have to take their own protection and the protection of those around them very seriously. So, what can you learn from what nurses are doing in their daily lives to protect themselves from COVID-19?

Shop Cautiously

Even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, we all need to get groceries and everyday supplies. But going to the store can be risky for nurses who need to reduce contact with the general public as much as possible when outside of work. Being cautious when shopping for groceries and other supplies is something that has become second nature to nurses and other healthcare professionals by now. You are unlikely to see a nurse getting groceries without wearing a face covering and regularly sanitizing their hands. Using sanitizer or disinfectant to spray your grocery cart before you start shopping is a good habit to get into, as is carrying disinfectant wipes to clean gas pumps, card keypads, and anything else that you might touch while at the store.

Hygiene at Home

For nurses, the risk of passing the coronavirus on is even higher compared to the rest of the general public. A nurse who gets infected with COVID-19 in their personal life is at a higher risk of passing it on to vulnerable patients in the hospital or clinic, so hygiene at home has to be taken very seriously. When returning home from work or from the store, nurses have a strategy in place to fully decontaminate themselves and everything that they’ve brought in with them. They treat everything from the outside like it could potentially be contaminated with the virus, and many will disinfect groceries before putting them away, wherever possible, and thoroughly clean any surfaces that have been touched by something that’s come in from outdoors.

At the end of a work shift, nurses take hygiene very seriously. Most are taking advantage of laundry facilities at work to put their scrubs through a hot wash at the end of every day, ensuring that nothing from the hospital comes into contact with anything at home. At home, the first thing that they do is jump in the shower for a thorough clean.

Carry Paper Towels and Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitization is something that nurses do at work on a regular basis, so carrying hand sanitizer and paper towels around with them has become a natural transition. Paper towels can be used to touch anything that is communal, such as doorknobs and elevator buttons to reduce contact with your skin, and hand sanitizer means that you can keep your hands clean by using it immediately after touching anything that could potentially be contaminated. Nurses are making a conscious effort not to touch their faces while outdoors, and when they get home, they have a routine of washing their hands straight away.

Avoiding Social Situations

While working as a nurse is often a highly social environment where nurses are meeting and working with new people on a daily basis, they know that it’s not a good idea to entertain social situations outside of the workplace right now. Nurses are staying at home and communicating with their friends and family virtually wherever possible in order to help reduce the risk of passing on or catching COVID-19. Nurses who are considering progressing their careers right now are more likely to choose an online degree program such as these online nurse practitioner programs that can mostly be studied for at home without the need to mingle with more people than necessary in a classroom setting.

Eating a Balanced Diet

Right now, nurses are hyperaware of the need to look after their immune systems. As professionals who spend a lot of their day around sick people, it’s so important for nurses to eat a diet that contributes to a strong and healthy immune system in order to reduce their risk of catching diseases and improve their chance of a quick recovery if they do. Right now, nurses are not only concerned about the risk of catching COVID-19 and the potential to pass it on to others, but they are also worried about the impact that it will have on their place of work if they need to take an extended period of time off work to recover. Nurses are making sure that they add plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to their diet and filling their meals up with foods that are high in antioxidants such as leafy greens, to give their immune system a boost.

Staying Hydrated

Nurses more than anybody understand the importance of staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water. During the current crisis, staying hydrated is beneficial for nurses in many different ways. Not only does being adequately hydrated allow nurses to keep their energy levels up and provide the best standard of care to their patients while at work, but it also allows them to keep their immune systems strong and boost their chance of being able to quickly bounce back in the event that they become infected with COVID-19.

Symptom Checking

Nurses right now need to be hypervigilant to any symptoms that they might experience that have the potential to be caused by COVID-19. Since the main symptoms of the coronavirus are quite similar to the flu or the common cold, nurses cannot simply brush off symptoms such as a new continuous cough or a high fever as probably nothing. Nurses need to be in tune with their own bodies and take any potential coronavirus symptoms as seriously as possible, getting tested as soon as they experience a symptom that fits, even if it is not serious.

Wearing a Face Shield and Other PPE

Right now, the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE) for nurses has never been higher. Face masks are required for the general public in the majority of outdoor areas, and nurses are sticking to the rules and making sure that they never go without one. However, when interacting with patients, nurses are protecting themselves even further by using a face shield. Face shields offer much more protection compared to a mask alone when working closely with patients, as there’s always the chance that a patient might cough or sneeze in their direction or that the nurse will come into contact with bodily fluids. Protecting the entire face is crucial since there is a chance that the virus could enter the body through the eye’s mucous membrane. Other PPE that nurses are wearing to protect themselves includes aprons and gloves, which are changed in between every single patient.

They Manage Stress

There is no denying that a pandemic is a very stressful situation for anybody, especially for nurses who are working with patients on the front line of healthcare and putting their own health at risk to help the people who need it most during these trying times. But stress is very dangerous for your immune system, and nurses know that letting the stress of the situation get to them is not going to do anything positive for their health or their risk of catching the virus.

During this crisis, nurses need to be committed to managing their stress levels with a variety of different techniques. Many nurses use mindfulness techniques to help them stay in the moment and reduce anxiety about themselves or their patients. Nurses can further reduce stress by making sure that they get an adequate level of hydration and rest, including a wide variety of nutrients in their diet, exercising regularly, getting exposure to fresh air and sunlight in a socially-distanced way, taking time to relax, and getting support from others when needed.

Staying in Workplace Accommodation

At the beginning of the pandemic, many nurses and other healthcare professionals found themselves needing to take extreme measures to avoid bringing the coronavirus home and keep their families safe. Many nurses and healthcare professionals were moved into emergency shared accommodation provided by their employers in order to enable them to stay away from home and avoid coming into contact with others. Some nurses stayed in hotel rooms and other accommodations during the height of the pandemic in an attempt to reduce their contact with others as much as possible and avoid passing the virus on to their loved ones.

Why Are COVID-19 Safety Measures Still Important?

While there is news of a vaccine on the horizon in the near future and it has already been approved and administered to patients in the UK, the USA is still waiting on FDA authorization. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the government, the general public, and the healthcare industry has managed to take back some control over the virus with a range of safety measures in place; however, while things might be looking better compared to how they were in the spring and summer of 2020, it’s still important to respect COVID-19 safety guidelines to protect yourself, your families, and the healthcare professionals who are working tirelessly to beat the virus safe. Some key COVID-19 safety strategies that are still just as important as ever before include:

1.      Self-Isolation

If you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 such as a high temperature or a new continuous cough, it’s important to isolate yourself for a period of at least 7-14 days. You can get a COVID-19 test to determine whether or not you are suffering from the coronavirus. If your test result is positive, you will be instructed on how long to isolate at home. During this period, it is important that you do not interact with anyone other than the members of your immediate household and try to distance yourself from others at home wherever you can.

2.      Stay at Home

Although Stay at Home orders are not in place everywhere, it’s a good idea to stay at home and avoid social interactions wherever possible until there is an effective vaccine that has been administered to the majority of people. Going outdoors and being in social situations is always a risk, so if you can, it’s a wise idea to work from home, do as much shopping as possible online and reduce your contact with other people to as little as possible. If you must meet up with people outside of your home for any reason, stick to social distancing rules and cover your face.

3.      Face Coverings

Wearing a face covering is now mandatory in public places in the majority of states, and for very good reason. Covering your mouth and nose means that any microscopic droplets that come from them when you are talking, laughing, coughing, or sneezing can be caught by the mask rather than ending up on somebody else. Wearing a face covering is just as much about protecting yourself from the virus as it is about protecting other people, particularly those who are vulnerable.

4.      Hand Hygiene

There is a good reason why carrying hand sanitizer with them comes as second nature to the majority of nurses. One of the easiest ways to catch the coronavirus is by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your face – something that many of us do naturally without even realizing it. Carrying hand sanitizer allows you to clean your hands as well as possible after touching anything that may be contaminated with the virus. Regular hand-washing, particularly immediately after coming home, is just as important as ever.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses have played an absolutely essential role in treating and caring for affected patients and their families. Everybody can learn from nurses and other healthcare professionals when it comes to protecting yourself, them, and everybody else from this virus.

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