As the medical community digs in to battle COVID-19, a Ball State University professor offers a few tips to help keep these people safe.
“While everyone is worried about family, friends, and cases in the community, we ignore a very high risk and vulnerable group,” said Jagdish Khubchandani, a Ball State health science professor. “Studies have consistently shown that healthcare workers frequently work long hours, don’t practice self-care or optimal hygiene, and work while being sick.
“Today, with COVID-19, there are additional challenges such as changing protocol, greater number of emergencies, shortage of medical supplies, and lack of preventive testing and protective equipment. Health care workers are at the front line and often neglected during such times.”
Key tips for health care workers include:
- Practice self-care with good diet, daily exercise, enough sleep, and adding more protein and vitamins to your diet.
- Buy your own protective equipment and sanitation supplies (masks and sanitizers) if the workplace doesn’t provide them.
- Practice frequent hand-washing, preferably after each encounter with a client or patient.
- Hand-washing is better than hand sanitizers. Or practice both. Relying on hand sanitizers where the optimum quantity is not used, or quality of sanitizers can be questioned, is not a good idea. Soap and water are highly recommended compared to casual use of sanitizers.
- Try to avoid overworking, watch your shifts, and working hours — exhaustion can make you weak and vulnerable to seasonal flu and COVID-19.
- Avoid personal contact with clients or patients as much as possible. Health care workers frequently shake hands or exchange hugs with clients who may do it out of affection or gratitude — a distant thank you is OK at this time.
- Pay attention to your own body for signs for any illness, especially flu-like symptoms. Don’t ignore coughs, runny nose, fever, headaches, or body pains.
- Ensure that coworkers don’t have these signs and symptoms — stay vigilant and help coworkers get care and rest if they have such symptoms. Be firm with colleagues who don’t practice good hygiene such as regular hand-washing.
- Follow guidelines for clinical practice and personal protection from authentic sources such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Ensure that your facility is following best practices for infection control. It is appropriate now to educate colleagues and your managers, even if they are superiors or higher in chain of command. Studies also show that most educated in health care professions could be least likely to practice personal hygiene.
- Disinfect your office and personal space – even if it is not being done by facilities and janitors.
- Call on facilities managers and ensure they are following protocols and ramping up daily cleaning and sanitation activities.
- Ensure that clients are not surrounded by too many friends or family members and educate clients on avoiding too many frequent visitors.
- Pull up your training manuals and best practice guideline notebooks for infection control and review if needed.