How often have you given your patients advice on preventive health care and screenings and heard that nagging, guilty little voice in your head saying, “Don’t be a hypocrite, don’t forget about you”
? Part of our job as nurses is to teach our patients about preventive health care and recommended screenings to maximize their health, longevity, and quality of life. While we know the importance of these health care services, however, we don’t always translate that into practice for ourselves.
Nurses may not follow recommended preventive and screening practices for a multitude of reasons. Shift work, long hours, limited paid time off, and an unpredictable schedule make it difficult to schedule appointments. As caregivers to the core, the needs and activities of our children, spouses, and parents become our focus during our non-working hours, and our own health care needs tend to take a backseat. But, in order to take care of our patients, as well as our families, we must make our own health a priority. A sick nurse can’t take care of anyone.
So, what exactly do you need to do? To start with, schedule a check-up with your practitioner. Your practitioner will perform a physical examination, provide counseling, and perform or order screening tests and preventive services based on your age, gender, and risk factors. Your practitioner may include the following during your check-up, based on the recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Task Force
- Screen for alcohol misuse, intimate partner violence, depression, or high blood pressure
- Order a serum blood test to screen for human immunodeficiency virus or hepatitis C virus
- Order a serum lipid blood test to screen for hyperlipidemia
- Order a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan to screen for osteoporosis
- Order or perform cancer screenings at the appropriate intervals, including breast cancer, cervical cancer, and colorectal cancer screenings
- Order or perform any additional targeted screenings based on your history, the presence of risk factors, and physical examination findings
In addition to the health care screenings, preventive measures can stop certain diseases from occurring in the first place. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
recommends the following vaccines for all health care workers:
- Hepatitis B series
- Influenza (annually)
- Measles, Mumps, & Rubella
- Tetanus, Diphtheria, & Pertussis
Some of these vaccines may be required at your facility, so they may be given free-of-charge during work hours, which saves you the time and inconvenience of scheduling a separate appointment. If they’re not, ask your practitioner about them at your check-up. It’s important to protect yourself so you can continue to care for others.
Nurses Week is the perfect time to renew our commitment to take better care of ourselves by practicing preventative care measures and making those screening appointments. Be well!
Vicki Cantor, RN, BSN, MA
Health Learning, Research & Practice