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Dehydration can affect nurse’s ability to make ‘safety critical decisions,’ RCN warns

Nurses are being urged to take their breaks on shift, in a campaign launched to coincide with Nutrition and Hydration Awareness Week, this week.

The 3Rs Initiative encourages staff to “rest, rehydrate” and “refuel” during their shifts, at a time when workforce pressures force many staff to miss breaks.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is using the campaign to make staff consider the consequences of not looking after themselves when on shift, highlighting the “safety critical decisions” they have to take, as well as the affects that dehydration can have on concentration and cognitive function.

It emphasises that breaks at work are “a necessity, not a luxury.”

Kim Sunley, RCN national officer, warned that missed breaks have “become the norm,” and that it is not sustainable.

“Employers and managers need to recognise that in order to create safe and healthy working environments, nurses should be able to have regular breaks and have access to drinking water and healthy food during a shift, be that in the community or on a ward.”

Materials for the 3Rs Initiative include posters designed to highlight the importance of taking breaks and to identify signs of dehydration, and a resource pack to explain the evidence base for the campaign.

It also outlines employers’ legal responsibilities to staff.

The upcoming RCN Congress in May includes as a matter for discussion the “draconian practice” of staff not being permitted to have water bottles in clinical areas.

Alison Upton, of the UK safety representatives committee, who will introduce the discussion, said: “I’m hoping we’ll hear from members whose organisations have policies and protocols that allow health care staff to have water bottles in clinical areas.”

Top image: Hyrma

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