How the RCN 3Rs initiative protects staff wellbeing

Busy nursing staff need encouragement to rest, rehydrate and refuel. RCN resources can help reps drive home the message

Nutrition and Hydration Week falls this month, and with it comes an opportunity to highlight the serious effects of failing to eat and drink enough.

Three million people are at risk of malnutrition in the UK, many of them already vulnerable because of poor health. Reversing the effects of malnutrition and dehydration adds to the burden on care services.

But it’s not only patients who are at risk. The RCN’s Rest, Rehydrate, Refuel (3Rs) initiative grew out of concerns raised at Congress two years ago that nursing staff were missing breaks because of short staffing.

The initiative, part of the RCN’s Healthy Workplace, Health You campaign, outlines steps members can take to help themselves – for example, raising the issue with their line manager if they feel unable to take their breaks.

Among the 3Rs resources there are guidelines for reps to help them make a case for workplace improvements. The guidelines highlight statutory requirements placed on employers and draw on an RCN safe staffing survey which found that nearly 60% of members did not get to take sufficient breaks on their last shift.

Also included are quick wins – practical measures that safety reps and nurse leaders can introduce to ensure problems are avoided.

Making it easier for staff

One RCN member who’s already making a difference is Lisa Reavette, a sister at Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Last year, I noticed hydration stations on Twitter and decided to put one in an accessible area


Lisa has always encouraged proper breaks but noticed that staff, herself included, were finding it increasingly difficult to find time to eat and drink adequately.

“During Nutrition and Hydration Week last year, I noticed hydration stations on Twitter and decided to put one in an accessible area,” Lisa says. Sliced fruit was added to a large water dispenser placed alongside cordial and cups, with signs inviting staff to “stop and take a drink”.


Water jug and glass on a table

The initiative clarified what we should be doing, but often neglected to do

“When I posted my initiative on Twitter the RCN 3Rs initiative was brought to my attention and that made the issue feel even more important. I had more evidence to support and promote my initiative.”

She printed off 3Rs posters to place by the hydration station, sensing that doing so would encourage more staff to understand the importance of regular drinks.

Other wards followed her lead. Encouraged, Lisa arranged a more convenient staff room. Previously, team members had been reluctant to leave the ward for breaks because they felt colleagues, already under pressure because of staff shortages, would be further stretched. 

We felt that if the RCN was encouraging us to rest, rehydrate and refuel then it must be right

A year on, the hydration station is still well used, Lisa says. “And we’ve developed a staff hamper, where staff bring in snacks, drinks and food to encourage others to refuel.

She adds: “The 3Rs initiative helped as it clarified what we should be doing but often neglected to do. We felt that if the RCN was encouraging us to rest, rehydrate and refuel then it must be right.”

More information

Read about the RCN 3Rs initiative and download resources

Nutrition and Hydration Week takes place every year in March.

Find out more about Nutrition and Hydration Week

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