A job in the healthcare industry means continuously coming into contact with sick people. It is vital for your health and your patient’s health that nurses and medical workers maintain good personal hygiene. Medical care facilities are full of people whose immune systems have been compromised in some way. Proper grooming and cleanliness are critical in combating the spread of germs.
It can be easy to overlook basic physical care when you are working long hours in a fast-paced environment that demands so much of your time and energy, but following these essential hygiene tips can keep your health in top shape so you can continue to provide the highest quality care to your clients.
Wash Your Hands Regularly
Frequently washing your hands is the most basic form of practicing good hygiene. A full 80% of communicable diseases are transferred by touch. Developing a proper handwashing habit can significantly reduce the number of germs that can get you, and others, sick. Proper handwashing technique states that hands should be rubbed vigorously under running water, with soap, for at least 15 seconds. However, a handwashing period of 30 seconds is ideal.
For every 15 seconds of handwashing, 10 times more bacteria are removed.
Given the hectic schedule of medical workers, it can be tricky to find time to wash your hands at regular intervals. Fortunately, the waterless hand sanitizers that every medical facility keeps within easy reach are even more potent at combating germs. Thirty seconds of using hand sanitizer kills as much bacteria as two minutes of hand washing. In addition to the hands themselves, paying proper care to your fingernails is also essential. Dirt and grime can get under fingernails, causing a buildup of germs and generally being unsightly.
Nurses and other medical staff should keep nails short to prevent infection and hangnails.
Excellent hand hygiene is the first step to reducing the spread of germs, meaning more productivity and fewer days of missed work due to illness.
Keep Your Scrubs Clean
Today’s medical scrubs come in so many styles and color variations, but, no matter how fashionable or durable, they are still exposed to germs and chemicals daily. It is critical that you properly wash and disinfect your scrubs to remove any harmful contaminants. Not only is it part of a clean hygiene regimen, but it will help keep your nursing scrubs looking better and lasting longer. Turn your medical scrubs inside out and wash them in cold water. This will keep the colors from fading and protect any pockets or zippers from getting snagged. Hot water will set stains, which is not the healthy, clean outcome you want.
To make sure your scrubs are free from as much bacteria as possible, they will need to be disinfected. You can do this by putting some pine oil or phenolic disinfectant in the wash cycle. Do not use chlorine bleach except on white scrubs; otherwise, you will damage the colors or prints. Keep in mind that oxygen-based bleaches, such as Oxi Clean or Clorox 2, do not have disinfecting properties. They only brighten the color of fabrics. They do not clean it.
There are days when working in a medical facility can get especially dirty. To clean specific stains, take a look at these stain removal remedies:
- Vomit, Urine & Feces: These items are protein-based stains and should be soaked in cold water before washing. Never rub at a blemish––that will only cause the staining agent to settle deeper into the fabric. Add about ½ a cup of baking soda to the wash to reduce odors.
- Liquid Medications: Often, there is added dye to liquid medications. This dye can stain scrubs. Use an oxygen-based bleach to alleviate the stain. Mix the bleach with cool water and let the stained nursing scrubs soak for at least one hour before washing as usual.
- Blood: Blood is notoriously tricky to remove from clothing. It is another protein-based stain and should be thoroughly flushed from the fabric with a stream of cold water. It can be helpful to rub some laundry detergent directly onto the stain and let it work for several minutes before throwing the scrubs in the washer.
- Iodine: Iodine is one stain where soaking in warm water is beneficial. Mix in an enzyme-based presoak product to attack the iodine and break it down. Let the scrubs soak in this mixture for 20-30 minutes, and then wash them with detergent in a cycle with warm water. Add an oxygen-based bleach to the wash cycle to aid in the removal of the stain.
Get Enough Sleep
Many people might not consider a good night’s sleep as part of a healthy routine for good hygiene, but, when you do not get enough sleep, your body is tired and stressed, which reduces the immune system’s ability to protect you from germs. To keep your body’s natural defense system from being compromised, aim for several solid hours of sleep a night; 7-10 hours are ideal. That may not always be possible, given the demands of a medical practitioner’s schedule these days. But, what time you do have for sleep needs to be uninterrupted and deep.
Make sure all blinds are closed and lights are off, including any lights from the tv, computer, digital clock, or your phone. Blackout curtains are an excellent investment. Go one step further and wear an eye mask if all you have time for is a quick cat nap in a break room. Sleep is an often-overlooked aspect of positive well-being. Making time for rest will go a long way toward helping your body stay clean and healthy.
Those in medical professions understand what it takes to be and stay healthy, but it can be easy to forget about the basics of caring for yourself when you are so dedicated to improving the lives of your patients. Remember that self-care and good hygiene are crucial to your effectiveness as a worker in the healthcare industry.