Sarah Oerther, MSN, M.Ed., RN, F.RSPH
A nurse’s duty is to improve the health and wellness of others. It’s no surprise that this often transfers into home life.
At least it does for Sarah Oerther, a nursing instructor at Saint Louis University. While not currently employed as a bedside nurse, Sarah dedicates herself to helping those around her — including her own children — prevent illness and make healthier choices.
This is especially evident in her passion for immunizations. Since her 9-year-old and 7-year-old were born, Sarah has taken them to get yearly flu vaccines. The family makes the event a celebration. They get their annual flu vaccines, then go out for a treat, like cupcakes or ice cream. As they celebrate, the family discusses the role of vaccines in keeping the community healthy.
“My grandmother had to watch an entire generation of people suffer because they didn’t have the flu vaccine,” said Sarah. “Our generation isn’t used to people getting the measles, or other illnesses, because of the herd immunity we’ve grown up with.”
Herd immunity happens when a large population of people are immune to a contagious disease through vaccination. This immunity reduces the spread of the disease.
A Time and Place for Antibiotics
Sarah is also mindful of the threat of antimicrobial resistance — the ability of a microbe to resist the effects of medication that once could successfully treat the microbe. Especially during cold and flu season, when she and her children sometimes show signs of minor illnesses, she asks these questions:
- Are we drinking enough water?
- Are we getting enough rest?
- Are we taking our vitamins?
- Can we avoid antibiotics?
“Of course, with certain illnesses like strep throat, an antibiotic is essential,” said Sarah. “But many times, we can alter our lifestyle to get better while avoiding antibiotics.”
Re-evaluating every day habits is a critical part of health and wellness in Sarah’s home. For example, instead of reaching for hand sanitizer, Sarah encourages her family to wash their hands the old-fashioned way — with soap and water.
She also tries to get outside and walk with her husband every evening. Not only does the outing get Sarah moving, it gives her quality time to connect with her husband, practice mindfulness, and enjoy the fresh air.
“I’m currently a Ph.D. student, so I have a lot of stress in my life,” said Sarah. “But I overcome that by focusing on improving small, everyday habits and traditions I’m cultivating in my family.”
It’s not about making major lifestyle changes, like massive weight loss or diet overhauls. It’s about examining your routine and identifying small areas to adjust:
- Small choices add up: What you do on a daily basis, like reaching for that soda instead of water, may seem small, but it adds up over time.
- Re-evaluate your habits: What are healthy habits you do on a daily basis? What are the not-so-healthy ones? Is there anything you can do differently?
- Be mindful of where other people are in their health journeys: We can all encourage each other to choose healthier options. Be more mindful of your loved ones’ health and do what you can to help keep them well.
Sarah Oerther, MSN, M.Ed., RN, F.RSPH is a nursing instructor at Saint Louis University.
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