Take care in the heat

 Kim Sunley 18 Jul 2016

As temperatures soar, remember to keep hydrated, writes Kim Sunley.

The sun is a welcome change for most of us, but warm weather poses a real challenge to busy nursing staff.

Caring for patients in a pressurised environment can make it difficult to get time to rest and hydrate. 

Taking regular breaks and drinking 6-8 glasses of water is highly recommended. Hot weather means you often need to drink more than usual.

While most of us associate dehydration with a headache, it can actually impair physical and cognitive performance.

Dehydration affects concentration, which triggers fatigue and an increase risk of accidents and errors. Essentially it is not just a wellbeing at work issue but an issue of safety.

A study of 88 nurses and doctors at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust found that 36% of participants were dehydrated before they had started their shift.

Using urine samples and short-term memory tests, the study also found that 45% of participants were dehydrated at the end of their shift, and that short-term memory tests were significantly impaired in dehydrated participants.

Noticing these changes is difficult, especially as you move from patient to patient, and task to task.

While staying hydrated is our own responsibility, it is the duty of employers to ensure staff have access to drinking water, the time to rehydrate (and go to the toilet) and that the working environment is adequately ventilated. After all, it’s not only in the interest of nursing staff but that of patients.

Enjoy the sunshine!

Healthy workplace, healthy you

Our Healthy workplace, healthy you campaign has resources to help you with work-life balance including advice for carers and resources for employers on the benefits of flexible working arrangements.

Kim Sunley

Kim Sunley

Senior Employment Relations Adviser


Kim Sunley is a Senior Employment Relations Adviser at the Royal College of Nursing. Kim works to improve the health and safety and working environment for nursing staff across the United Kingdom.

Page last updated - 05/09/2018