Simple Tips for Staying Healthy in the Emergency Department

By Megan McGrane, PA picture for blog

We all know the basics of staying healthy while working, such as good hand washing and appropriate safety precautions. But sometimes while focusing on taking care of others, we forget to take care of ourselves. Here are a few super simple tips to staying healthy while working in the emergency department.

Don’t Forget to Eat

It can be difficult during a busy shift in the emergency department to find time to fit in a full meal. Often times we are so busy that we don’t have the chance to eat until we are ravenous and reaching for anything we see. Grabbing a quick snack out of the vending machine may be easy, but coming to work prepared with healthy options can help prevent the ravenous munchies and keep you on track and energized.
Healthy snacks, such as raw nuts or trail mix, an apple or banana with nut butter (like peanut butter or almond butter), or a quick snack like “roll ups” made of cold cuts, lettuce and cheese, can give you energy and keep you feeling full through your shift. These easy snacks also will help you avoid empty calories from candy and treats that will give you a sugar rush but leave you crashing later in the day.


Sometimes even mild dehydration can leave us feeling fatigued. Staying hydrated can play an important role in helping you feel energized on the job. Try “swapping out” your coffee or soda periodically; when you feel yourself reaching for a caffeinated drink, try downing a cool glass of water instead and watch as your energy bounces back.

Take a Walk

Taking a 20-minute walk outside is one of the best things you can do for your health, either before or after a shift. Getting sunshine and fresh air also is one of the best ways to help regulate your circadian rhythm when shifting between day and night. A brief walk can help ease stress, improve circulation and boost immunity. Easy, right?

Consider a Multivitamin

As medical professionals, we find vitamins and supplementation can be quite a hot button issue. Experts agree that if you are eating a balanced diet and are in generally good health, a multivitamin is unnecessary. However, when we really get honest with ourselves, how many of us sit down for “three square meals” filled with fresh fruit, veggies and lean protein during our shift work? Consider taking a high-quality multivitamin each day that includes vitamin D. During shiftwork, especially in the winter months, we may not get quality sunshine or eat the freshest high nutrient food as we do in warmer months.  A multivitamin can help fill in those nutritional gaps and keep us up and running.

Practice Stress Reduction Techniques

The emergency department can be a stressful place. Learning a few simple stress reduction techniques like deep breathing or even meditation can have an amazing impact on your health. Meditation can help you lower stress, lower blood pressure and sleep better. The simple technique of stepping aside or going to an empty room and taking 10 quiet, slow, deep breaths can help you reset your mindset in a moment while on the job. This simple act can improve your mental clarity while lowering your stress level.

In the emergency department, our focus is always on our patients. Their health is our primary concern. We skip eating, exercising and hydrating to provide them with exceptional care. Remembering to take care of ourselves first will help ensure a longer career of taking care of patients.

Megan McGrane is a full-time physician assistant at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J. She received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of Pittsburgh and holds a second master’s degree from University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Piscataway, N.J. She is a member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

Posted on November 7, 2013, in Uncategorized, work-life balance and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I like what you said about hydration. Not a lot of people realize how important it is to stay hydrated, especially when you’re always on the move. Thanks for posting these tips, I will definitely keep them in mind!

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