4 Tips to Prevent Dehydration During a Busy Nursing Shift

By Elizabeth Scala on Thu, Jun 06, 2013

nurse dehydrationNursing shifts may vary from one case to another, but whatever circumstances there is, everything spells the same - busy. I hurry from meeting to meeting. I sit with my supervisor and talk over our plans for the new research project. I visit with multiple patients in a row, asking them if they are interested in enrolling in our study. I finally return to my desk after being gone for over 4 hours. My lips are cracked. My head aches. My mouth feels dry. I reach for my jug of water and gulp the refreshing liquid in. I am extremely thirsty. I am dehydrated.

I know many nurses struggle their health with dehydration. While the story above is an example from my current role, I used to come up against this hardship almost daily on the floor. I was busy with taking care of my patients, speaking to families, answering doctor’s calls, running charge, meeting with my boss, etc. I was also worried about when the next time I might get a chance to use the restroom was so at times I didn’t want to overdo it with the water!

Staying thirsty and dehydrated is all too common. But unfortunately, it is also too dangerous. When we are dehydrated - and I am sure we have all felt this at one time or another - we may notice various symptoms like headache, blurred vision, irritability, mood swings, and fatigue. Once the dehydration gets worse, things like decreased blood pressure, dizziness, and even fainting can occur. These are just some of the effects of dehydration in busy shift, nurses.

Now I’m sure I am writing about things that you already know, but what I wonder is: do you ever think about how getting dehydrated at work is affecting you? Did you ever notice that during the afternoon you may get snappier with your co-workers? Or maybe towards the middle of your shift you are purely exhausted or weak? How about feeling light-headed and dizzy while on the job? I know that this is not something we want to go through as nurses, because then our patients might have to turn around and take care of us as we fall over onto them! (I know from experience and it wasn’t pretty).

So what are some ways that you can combat the possibility of another nursing shift of dehydration?

  1. Drink more water. You might be saying, “Well, duh! Of course I should be drinking more water, but how much is enough?” Many people are not sure of the amount of water they should be taking in. Or a lot of folks say “Sure, I drink two glasses of water a day… I drink water.” What you want to aim for is half of your body weight in ounces of water. So if you weigh 150 pounds you aim for 75 ounces of water per day. As with anything else, listen to your body. This is just a recommendation to aim for.
  2. Carry a water bottle with you. Instead of remembering at lunch or on break or whenever you might happen to see a cup lying around, make a commitment to carry around your own water bottle. That way you can continuously be sipping on it throughout your day and refilling it more often than if you were to wait to drink that “one glass of water.”
  3. Tune into and listen to your body. Do not wait until you are falling over from dehydration. Touch base with yourself from time to time. Become aware of how you are physically feeling during your day. Lick your lips - are they extremely cracked and dry? Roll your tongue around in your mouth - is it rough and scratchy? Pinch your skin - does it take a long time to flatten back to the body? Feel your bladder - when was the last time you used the restroom? These are all ways to physically feel for yourself if your body is thirsting for a drink of water!
  4. Allow yourself to receive. Many of us nurses don’t want to use the restroom because we are just “too busy” meeting the demands of a nurse's shift or afraid we are going to miss something with our patients. That or we are getting called from room to room, feeling as if we are running around scattered and busy. Stand up for your body, love yourself, and allow yourself to receive the water. Do not worry that the water will make you have to use the restroom. Water is eliminating the toxins from your body. That is a good thing. You want that. Take care of you and your body, mind, emotion, and spirit will thank you.

Making sure that nurses are getting an adequate amount of water is vital for daily life functions. Learn the importance of hydration by providing your body the right amount of water each day. Hectic nursing shift should not hinder your health.

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Anonymous 11 months ago
BTW, sodas, sweetened iced tea, coffee is not really hydrating. Basic H20. Just do it. And if requires more bathroom breaks, that's fine too. As Elizabeth wrote, it's toxins leaving your body --that's a good thing.