The UK heatwave coupled with the start of the school holidays will inevitably see an increase in patients requiring medical attention and can present a whole host of challenges to agency nurses.
At the forefront of this seasonal influx will be nurses who're key focus will be to care for and attend the needs of their patients. However, as an agency nurse, it can be all too easy to neglect your own primary needs and ignore the warning signs placing yourself in a dicey situation.
So how can you take care of yourself during this period of hot weather whilst also tending to your patients? We look at the steps you can take to minimise the effects of the hot weather.
Dehydration severely affects concentration and your ability to function at your full capacity. It can be easy to overlook the importance of drinking water when on shift.
Caring for patients is a pressurised environment and finding a minute to yourself to grab a quick drink can be hard to come by as an agency nurse. The RCN’s Healthy workplace, healthy you campaign has a number of useful resources to help ensure you stay hydrated, eat well and get enough breaks.
Have a water bottle or jug readily available throughout your shift. Ensure it is regularly topped up and drink little and often. DO NOT wait until you are thirsty to drink.
As anybody can attest trying to sleep during a heatwave can be almost nigh on impossible (don’t even get started on those who work night shifts!).
No matter how much you toss and turn, the bedsheets cling to you and lie there in your own perspiration and risk a quick glance at your phone to see what time it is. Bad choice, you are now counting down the hours until you need to get up for your shift and the pressure is mounting.
Sleep deprivation can have serious consequences on your cognitive function. A tired agency nurse can be a potentially dangerous one.
Invest in a fan, open your windows at night and take a cool shower before bed. Combined this should help you get a goodnight’s sleep.
Not only is it your legal right to take a break when on shift it is actively encouraged. You are entitled to a minimum break of 20 minutes when your daily working time is more than six hours and should:
be away from your workstation
be during working time
not be taken at the start or end of the working day
not overlap with your daily rest.
Be sure to make the most of your break when the weather is hot. Take some time to yourself, sit down, relax. Try and find a cool spot that it well ventilated, fresh air will make you feel more alert and have a positive impact on your productivity.
The RCN is calling on employers to allow nursing staff to wear looser fitting and cooler scrubs to beat the heat.
Where available and appropriate it may be worth reaching out to your employer to see if they will allow you to adopt looser fitting clothing to combat the heat. Looser fit clothing allows cool air to circulate more easily and helps to avoid overheating.