Coronavirus: Healthcare Workers Most Vulnerable
“While everyone is worried about family, friends, and cases in the community, we ignore a very high risk and vulnerable group,” says Jagdish Khubchandani, a Ball State University health science professor. “Studies have consistently shown that healthcare workers frequently work long hours, don’t practice self-care, lack on hygienic practices, and work while being sick.
“Today, with coronavirus, there are additional challenges such as changing protocol, greater number of emergencies, shortage of medical supplies, and lack of preventive testing and protective equipment. Healthcare workers are at the frontline and often neglected during such times.”
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Some key tips for healthcare workers:
- Practice self-care with good diet, daily exercise, enough sleep, and adding more protein and vitamins to diet.
- Buy your own protective equipment and sanitation supplies if not provided by workplace- masks and sanitizers.
- 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 optimum quantity is not used, or quality of sanitizers can be questioned, is not a good practice. 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 regular flu as well (in addition to the risk of coronavirus).
- Avoid personal contact with clients or patients as much as possible. Healthcare workers frequently shake hands, exchange greetings and hugs with clients who may do it out of affection or gratitude- a distant thank you is ok at this time.
- Check your own symptoms and signs for any illness (especially, flu like illness). Cough, runny nose, fever, headaches and body pains should not be ignored during this season.
- 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 handwashing.
- Follow guidelines for clinical practice and personal protection from authentic sources such as 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 healthcare 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 daily cleaning and sanitation activities are ramped up.
- 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.