Health care is one of the most exciting, emotional and rewarding careers. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the ones where you’re exposed to the most germs. Whether you work in health care already or are considering a career in the medical field but are hesitating because you’re worrying about getting sick, here are five tips to help you stay healthy once you put on that lab coat or those scrubs.

1. Safety Training

Safety training might not seem like an important part of staying healthy, but following established safety protocols can help keep you safe and uninjured, which is a big part of being healthy.

Safety training handles everything from biohazard disposal to how to handle unruly or dangerous patients. Medicine isn’t always as peaceful as it appears, and while uncooperative patients will need to be treated, their behavior can put themselves and the people around them in danger. More medical professionals are injured in this field than in any other, so safety training is essential to protect both the health care workers and their patients.

2. Protection Against Pathogens

Protecting yourself against pathogens, no matter how they’re transmitted, is one of the most important steps you can take to say healthy in the medical field. Keep yourself safe from pathogens by:

  • Utilizing proper personal protection gear. Depending on the case, this could include gloves, masks, disposable clothing covers and/or eye protection.
  • Being aware of sharp objects. Medical professionals are at a higher risk for acquiring a blood-borne pathogen due to an accidental needle stick or another injury by a sharp, contaminated object.

Infections caught in hospitals or medical settings can be dangerous — these settings are often home to the drug-resistant strains of the infections. These hospital-borne infections often become a problem for patients who are staying at the hospital for long periods of time, but they can also present a challenge for health care workers.

3. Equipment Training

There is more equipment in a hospital than you can imagine, and many of these pieces of advanced equipment require specialized training to keep both the patient and the health care worker safe.

Surgical lasers, for example, can be an invaluable tool for removing malignant tissue and cauterizing blood vessels, but they also present a unique hazard. The high temperature lasers generate surgical smoke, created by the vaporization of the targeted tissue. This smoke can contain toxic gasses and tissue samples that are both alive and dead. If inhaled, it can cause irritation in the upper respiratory tract, as well as irritate the eyes.

4. Practicing Proper Hygiene

Proper hygiene is the best defense against illness in a medical setting. We’ve already talked about blood-borne pathogens, but not about basic defenses against airborne infection.

Correct hand-washing protocols with antibacterial soap can go a long way toward preventing the spread of hospital-borne illnesses. This is a skill everyone should learn, whether you work in the medical industry or not.

In health care settings, hygiene is expanded to include cleaning and sterilization of tools like stethoscopes. Anything that is used for multiple patients absolutely needs to be sterilized between patients to prevent the spread of any bacteria or viruses between the patients.

Finally, patients with compromised immune systems or contagious viruses may need to be kept in a negative pressure environment. These rooms are designed to keep air from flowing in and out when the door is open to keep bacteria or viruses from spreading.

5. Mental Health

For health care workers, mental health can be just as important as physical health. It is essential to take care of your mental state when you work in a high-stress job like medicine. Not taking care of your mental health will lead to burnout, and you may find yourself looking for another career.

Take the time to take care of your mental health, no matter what field you work in, but especially if you work in medicine. Talk to someone, take a day off or find a therapist — whatever works for you. Just don’t abandon your mental health in favor of your career.

Staying healthy in the health care industry is easier than it sounds — just keep up with your physical and mental hygiene, and you’re good to go.

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