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How do Health Care Workers Stay Healthy?

by Allen B. Ury

As a medical assistant, you will naturally spend a lot of time working with patients, many who are likely to be sick. This naturally raises the question: How do you protect yourself from the viruses and bacteria patients bring into a doctor's office? How do health care workers of all kinds -- doctors, nurses, medical assistants, orderlies -- stay healthy when they spend so much time surrounded by disease?

Here are ways health care workers stay healthy on the job:

1. Frequent Hand-Washing. Many contagions are spread by casual contact. You can remove many bacteria and viruses from your hands simply by washing them vigorously with soap under hot water for at least 20 seconds. Health care workers should do this about once per hour, or after contact with each patient.

2. Avoid Touching Your Eyes, Mouth and Nose. Many contagions enter the body through these three areas. Frequently touching your eyes and nose is a nervous habit many people do subconsciously, and microscopic organisms have learned to take advantage of this particular human tick to gain access to our bodies. Keeping your hands away from your face takes conscious effort, but it's an effective way to avoid many contagious diseases.

3. Wear a Mask and Latex Gloves. If you're dealing with a patient you know has a contagious disease, wear a mask and latex gloves to avoid casual contact with the pathogens. Dispose of the latex gloves and mask as soon as you're done dealing with the patient in question.

4. Dispose of Used Tissues. If patients have used tissues to blow their noses, wipe their eyes, etc., dispose of these tissues immediately and wash your hands after touching them.

5. Keep Your Vaccines Current. Stay up-to-date on all your vaccines, especially annual flu shots.

6. Get Plenty of Rest. Sleep is one of the best preventive medicines. Try to get 6.5 to 8 hours of sleep per night. And keep your body on a regular sleep/wake schedule, even on weekends.

7. Drink Lots of Fluids. You want to stay hydrated, especially if you live where winters are cold and dry. (Viruses love dry nasal passages.) In most cities, tap water is just as pure -- and a lot cheaper -- than the bottled stuff.

8. Eat Healthy. Your mother said you should eat your fruits and vegetables, and she was right. Good nutrition is key to helping your body fight disease.

Of course, there's no way to completely protect yourself from illness. But by taking these common-sense steps, you can significantly lower your chances for catching contagious diseases and be able to spend more time helping patients in need.



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