InfographicWinter Blues: How to Stay Healthy as a Nurse

Infographic depicting various tips for nurses about how to stay healthy during the winter cold and flu season

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Winter Blues: How to Stay Healthy as a Nurse

During the winter months when colds and flus are making their rounds, it is especially important for nurses to maintain their health. They need to be able to work to their fullest potential. Slalom down the slopes of cold and flu season and stay healthy by making these checkpoints a priority.

Checkpoint 1

  • Get an annual flu shot
    • The CDC, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) recommend all healthcare workers get vaccinated annually against influenza.
  • Almost all (92 percent of nurse practitioners and 93 percent of nurses) got flu vaccinations in the last influenza season, but there’s still room for improvement!

Checkpoint 2

  • Promote flu vaccination to family, neighbors, and the public
    • The 2017-2018 flu season had record-breaking hospitalizations and deaths from influenza.
    • Since 2010, the CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in:
      • 2 million to 35.6 million illnesses
      • 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations
      • 12,000 to 56,000 deaths annually
    • The flu is a serious but preventable illness, and vaccination is the best defense against it.

Checkpoint 3

  • Practice good hand hygiene to stay on the piste of the cold and flu slope:
    • Handwashing reduces respiratory illnesses by 16 to 21 percent.
  • Be sure to:
    • Wash hands before and after using the restroom, doing computer work, seeing patients, etc.
    • Avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth. Contagious illnesses are transmitted through mucous membranes.

Checkpoint 4

  • Hazards Ahead – be on alert for symptoms, which include:
    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Sore throat
    • Runny nose
    • Body aches
    • Headache
    • Chills
    • Fatigue
    • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • The flu is most contagious in the first 3-4 days, often before symptoms begin to show.
  • Those 65 years or older with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and children under the age of five are the most at risk.

Checkpoint 5

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle:
    • Take your vitamins
    • Get enough rest
    • Manage stress
    • Exercise regularly

Checkpoint 6

  • Take advantage of any offered training related to the flu or other infectious diseases.
    • Find out the latest treatment and prevention strategies.

Checkpoint 7

  • Manage your healthcare environment to limit infection risks:
    • Mask, separate, and screen symptomatic patients in a timely fashion.
    • Direct patients to inform healthcare professionals of any symptoms upon arrival.
    • Limit visitor access to treatment areas using barriers and signage.
    • Wear gowns and gloves when in contact with potentially infected individuals.
    • Frequently wipe your desk, phone, frequently used objects, and surroundings with disinfectant.

Checkpoint 8

  • Don’t share food or personal items.
    • If you can’t avoid sharing or using items, sanitize them before touching.

Checkpoint 9

  • Use surgical mask when around symptomatic people.
    • Surgical masks reduced the exhalation of large flu virus particles by 25 times, and small particles by 2.8 times.

Checkpoint 10

  • If you develop any symptoms of colds, flus, or other infectious diseases, take the time to get screened.
    • If you do get sick, stay home until you are well.

Alternate Checkpoint 1

  • Monitor influenza activity.
    • The CDC publishes weekly activity reports related to the current flu season.
    • February is the peak month of flu activity.

Alternate Checkpoint 2

  • Cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing.
    • Viruses can be transmitted through exhalation, so have always tissues handy. (10)

Alternate Checkpoint 3

  • Take all anti-viral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.
  • If you do get sick, take the complete course of medication even if symptoms abate.

Concordia University, St. Paul offers an online RN to BSN designed for registered nurses who are interested in deepening their knowledge of nursing practice and advancing their careers. It combines theoretical inquiry and practical application to give students insight into ethics, evidence-based practice, collaboration, care coordination, community health and more. Coursework prepares students to be leaders and lifelong learners in the nursing field.