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Nurses need to be wearing compression socks or stockings for every shift. Especially nurses who are on their feet for 12 hour shifts!
I have been doing a bit of research lately on the effects of standing/walking for long hours. The reason for this is that I am an emergency room nurse who has worked on my feet all the way through two entire pregnancies – until just a few weeks before I gave birth.
I had no idea that being on my feet for such long hours could actually be bad for my health. I figured that standing and walking all day was better then sitting for long periods. As it turns out, that may not be true. Even for those who aren’t even pregnant.
Compression stockings are often overlooked as a way to prevent some of the chronic issues that come from working in a profession where you are on your feet for such long hours. There are enough occupational hazards for nurses as it is and this is an easier way for us to take better care of ourselves on the job!
How Do Compression Socks Help Nurses?
#1. Prevention of varicose veins
Standing for long periods of time causes valves in the veins to become weakened, causing blood to collect in the veins. This causes the veins to enlarge and increase in pressure. The veins then stretch from the increased pressure and cause varicose veins. Fortunately, varicose veins are not dangerous however then can be very painful.
#2. Improved blood flow and decreased risk of blood clots
There are a ton of studies out there on using compression stockings to prevent blood clots in patients recovering from surgery. As a nurse, I have helped my own patients use them many times. As it turns out, nurses should probably be using them too.
A study by The Society of Occupational Medicine found that wearing compression stockings significantly decreased lower limb venous pressure in nurses who stood for very long hours. The data found that compression stockings protected against oxidative stress in those who work in long-standing occupations.
#3. Decreased swelling of ankles and feet
I have been wearing graduated 30mm compression stockings for about the last 4 weeks during my 12 hour ER shifts. It has been a drastically better experience for me. I wouldn’t even consider going into work without them at this point because my legs start to hurt so badly by the end of the day.
Pregnancy exacerbates the problem of varicose veins and other venous issues since being pregnant increases blood flow in women by 50%. There are days when I hardly sit except for my 1 hour lunch break. That is a long time for anyone, much less a nurse who is already 7 months pregnant. If I didn’t wear compression stockings at this point, I don’t think I would even be able to make it through a shift.
How do compression socks work?
Compression socks help increase circulation of blood flow and oxygen by helping increase the velocity, or speed of blood flow. By squeezing on the legs, the veins carrying blood to the heart are compressed. Think of how when you squeeze a hose, it squirts the water out faster. With compression stockings, the same volume of blood is able to move up the leg, but it has less area in which to move.
Waring compression takes some getting used to.
When I first started wearing compression stockings during my pregnancy I wasn’t happy about it. My doctor recommended them for me because she knew I was a nurse. I wore the ankle to waist 20-30mmHg compression stockings, and they are tight! It is not an exaggeration to say that it took at least 5 minutes to pull them up and get them situated. They are especially difficult to put on with a 7th month pregnant belly. I felt (and probably looked) like an awkward whale putting them on.
Compression socks or stockings are a non-negotiable for pregnant nurses… unless you enjoy varicose veins!
Now that I’m used to wearing compression stockings, I love them. I can’t believe I used to work 12 hour shifts without them.
I have spoken to a lot of other nurses who say the same thing. A male co-worker I spoke with recently in the ER wears knee high compression stockings and says his legs “still feel energized at the end of a shift.”
It makes sense that standing up and working on your feet all day would be problematic in a matter of time. Swelling, varicose veins and decreased blood flow seem like an obvious result of being on your feet for 12 hours a day. Why wasn’t I wearing compression stockings sooner?
As long as I am working as a nurse, compression stockings will be a part of my life. Having pain or discomfort due to my hard work as an RN is so not OK with me. I don’t want future circulation and venous issues due to the fact that I worked hard as a nurse.
As a mom of small babies and an ER nurse I certainly don’t need any more wear-and-tear on my body!
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