How do nurses manage hydration in a fast-paced environment?

“We probably don’t talk about staff hydration enough,” says Gillian, a lecturer in nursing and Emergency Department nurse of 20 years. “Shifts can be long and hard, it’s physical work and you are on your feet a lot, plus hospitals get really warm. Being dehydrated impacts concentration and the ability to make decisions. You feel fatigued and just ‘not right’, which does have an impact on your role. I’d say not eating enough also has a similar impact – so it’s really important for nurses to take breaks and make sure they are properly fuelling their body.”

Indeed, staying hydrated is crucial for maintaining energy and focus throughout gruelling shifts. According to a study published in the Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, even mild dehydration can impair cognitive performance and concentration. For nurses, whose decisions can have life-or-death consequences, this is a significant concern.

“I get really grumpy when I’m thirsty” adds Nicole, a Year 2 adult nurse. “As nurses, we want to prioritise the health and wellbeing of our patients, but if we’re not doing it for ourselves, are we really able to give the best care?”

Nicole is in her 2nd year of our Adult Nursing course

Moreover, proper hydration supports physical health, which is particularly important given the physical demands of nursing. Teagan-Marie, a year 3 Adult Nursing student, points out, “Nursing is a very full-on, hands-on profession, and finding the time to drink enough can be challenging. However, I am really conscious of making sure I drink water throughout the day as I know the impact dehydration can have during a busy shift. Dizziness, blurred vision, nausea – it’s not pleasant, and I have dealt with those types of symptoms while on shift.”

Beyond personal well-being, hydration is also a matter of professional responsibility. Nurses are role models for their patients. “If we can’t look after ourselves, we can’t give good patient care.” says Polly, a year 2 student nurse. “As nurses, we are going to be focused on making sure our patients drink enough and we are good at ensuring the needs of our patients are met, but for ourselves, we don’t drink enough.”

Polly is a 2nd year Nursing student at the University of Stirling

So, how can nurses ensure they stay hydrated during hectic shifts? Many shared practical tips such as carrying a refillable water bottle, setting reminders to take sips between tasks, and choosing hydrating foods like fruits and vegetables.

“My tips are to get a really nice water bottle, try flavoured water, or set alarms on your phone as a reminder to drink – I think that can encourage you to drink more.” – says Polly.

In conclusion, hydration is vital for nurses, impacting their energy levels, mental clarity, mood, and physical well-being. As Nicole perfectly sums up, “Hydration is important because it impacts your health and wellbeing.”

As we celebrate the dedication and hard work of nurses, let’s also remember the importance of hydration in their daily lives. After all, a well-hydrated nurse is a healthier, happier, and more effective caregiver.

Got a thirst for more? Try our Hydration Quiz

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