Taking Care of YOU: 10 Health Tips for Healthcare Students
When you’re in the middle of a nursing class, or your medical assistant externship, or a dental tech laboratory, you’re thinking a lot about health. What’s a healthy blood pressure? When should a patient see the doctor again? How will a certain crown affect a person’s bite?
Healthcare students can spend every waking minute learning (and studying to retain) information about patients and what they need. In the midst of everything, there’s one person you can forget to care for: You. As you’re learning about nutrition, exercise, and other physiological needs, you have to practice what you preach—or at least, what you’re studying to preach once you’re a healthcare professional. Healthcare student health is incredibly important, which is why we’ve assembled these 10 tips for taking care of yourself.
1. Sleep Enough
After you finish nursing school, whatever practice you join, you’re going to be telling a lot of patients how important sleep is—because it is important, especially for healthcare students. Knowing how much sleep is “enough” can vary, but it’s rarely less than seven hours/night. If you aren’t sleeping, it will affect your health (and very likely your grades) in myriad ways, so make some lifestyle changes and get enough rest.
2. Eat Breakfast, and Lunch, and Dinner
It’s easy to skip meals, especially breakfast if you’re running late to class, but eating regularly has a big health benefit. Balanced meals throughout the day will keep your body’s blood sugar levels stable, giving you sufficient energy to start and continue your day. Meals will also keep your hunger levels down, which can reduce your cravings for snacks—which are often less nutritiously rich.
3. Say No to Junk Food
On that note, in addition to eating regular meals, make sure they’re good for you. Fast food is a misnomer: It may be fast, but it’s not always food. When you do go out, be mindful about what you’re ordering, and when you’re stocking your fridge, keep the temptation out of your home. Buy fruits and vegetables instead of chips and pints of ice cream, so when you do need a midnight snack, it’ll be full of vitamins.
4. Raise Your Heart Rate, Every Day
Going to the gym or yoga studio every morning isn’t feasible for almost anyone, especially not busy healthcare students—but you can take care of your heart every day. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, biking to class instead of driving, or fitting in some crunches when you catch up on Hulu episodes isn’t just better than nothing: It’s good for your heart.
5. Sweat (and Stretch) Twice a Week
Still, more strenuous exercise is great to keep your muscles limber. Try to schedule a weekly jog, spin class, or ultimate frisbee game, and make sure you stretch before and after. Engaging your whole body in exercise is good for your heart, muscles, bones, and mind.
Related Resource: 13 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise
6. Wash Your Hands
Of course you know: That sign in every restaurant bathroom is good advice for everyone, but students especially. Washing your hands regularly does more than establish a good habit: It kills cold and flu germs that spread most easily in crowded places like classrooms. Even minor head colds take away some of your energy, and when you’re a student, you don’t have much energy to waste.
7. Get Your Annual Flu Shot
You’re going to be telling patients this constantly, so take your future advice yourself and get immunized for the flu every year. Few common illnesses can wipe you out like the flu, and if it coincides with clinicals or a big test, you can fall way behind on your studies. Getting the flu shot is good for your personal and academic health.
8. Take a Tea Break
Healthcare students know all about stress—intellectually and personally. Stress often stems from good intentions, like the desire to succeed in classes and externships, but it takes a huge physiological toll on you. Constant stress will affect your sleep, your muscles, and your focus. When you feel it mounting, breathe, and take a break to brew some tea. While it may not be nutritious (unless you add some ginger and lemon), warm tea can soothe you, and the ritual can relax you, alleviating stress.
Related Resource: Tips for Finding Your Study Reward
9. See People You Love
Mental health is as important as physiological health, and it’s easier to forget when you’re studying things like the circulatory system. Students, though, can be at especially high risk of depression and anxiety, so they need to be particularly mindful about their minds. Regularly talking on the phone with loved ones, making plans with friends every few weeks, and spending time at church or with other communities can all bolster your mental health.
10. Visit Your Doctor
You know by now: Preventative healthcare isn’t just cost-effective; it’s health-effective. Seeing your doctor regularly, scheduling yearly physicals, and speaking with a physician when you first feel pain or discomfort can keep you healthy and address problems before they become complications. Just because healthcare students learn more about their bodies and biology than most people doesn’t make them qualified physicians for themselves. Like everyone else, you need to see your doctor or primary healthcare provider regularly.