It is that time again – flu season is upon us! Every year in the United States, between 9.3 million and 49 million cases of the flu arise, resulting in nearly 140,000 – 960,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 – 79,000 deaths annually. Influenza can happen to any of us, but as healthcare providers who are in direct contact with vulnerable patients every day, we have a duty to keep our patients safe. Here, MSSI Clinical Nurse Jenny shares her tips on how travel nurses can prevent themselves from getting the flu.
In order to help decrease the spread of the flu, please remember to take these steps to prevent the spread of infection:
- Vaccinate: Receiving your annual vaccination will help prevent you from getting the flu and spreading it to your co-workers, patients and family members. We know it doesn’t prevent all strains of the flu, but it does decrease the risk of getting it.
- Wash, wash, wash: The flu is extremely contagious from person to person, so be sure to wash your hands as often as you can and avoid touching your face without first washing to ensure they’re germ-free. Studies from researchers at the University of Arizona show that it takes less than four hours for surfaces such as fridge and coffeepot handles, phones, and doorknobs to host the infection.
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow: This will prevent the germs from getting on your hands and spreading to anything you may touch.
- Stay away: While this is unrealistic while you’re at work, you should make an effort to distance yourself from anyone who is sick or may have the flu outside of the facility. People with the flu are the most contagious in the first 3-4 days after it begins.
- Stay hydrated: Be sure to drink plenty of fluids which will help improve your immune system, enabling your body to better fight viruses.
- Bring your own pen: As a nurse, you know that always having a pen with you is critical. During this season, being sure that you’re the only one using your pen. This will help avoid unnecessary contact with germs. Don’t forget to disinfect it when you’re done!
By Jenny Palmgren, BSN, RN, Clinical Nurse Manager, MSSI