How Nurses wearing PPE can beat the heat

By Josh Jezard

How Nurses wearing PPE can beat the heat

​It’s finally here, sunshine, beautiful sunshine! After one of the wettest Mays since records began and a cold dark winter peppered with never-ending lockdowns, it seemed like we’d never see the sun again. However, the arrival of warmer weather brings a whole host of new challenges for nurses and healthcare professionals.

Aside from the raft of new patient injuries related to the frivolities of the good weather, the heat brings a number of challenges for nurses wearing PPE. It’s pretty well known that wearing PPE for extended periods in hot weather can be extremely uncomfortable, lead to heat stress, fatigue, and other heat-related illnesses. This is obviously a concern for nurses working long shifts on busy wards and the patients that they are caring for.

In this short blog, we’ll be looking at ways in which nurses wearing PPE can manage the heat and discomfort whilst on shift and what expectations they can have of the healthcare provider that they are working for.

​How employers can help nurses wearing PPE

According to a report from Public Health England, hospitals and other healthcare settings in England are at risk of overheating in warm weather. During 2018 nearly 50% of NHS hospital trusts reported at least one incident of overheating, and 8% of trusts reported over 50 incidents.

Our clients are legally required to take steps to mitigate the risk of injury or illness related to working in the heat. While there’s no law for minimum or maximum working temperatures, Employers must stick to health and safety at work law, and this includes: ​

  • Keeping the temperature at a comfortable level

  • Providing clean and fresh air

  • Access to comfortable rest facilities and water/fluids

  • Access to toilet facilities and ability to take breaks

  • Regular rest breaks during the shift

If the workplace temperature isn’t comfortable, you should raise the issue with your employer and make them aware.

Tips and Reminders for staying cool whilst on shift

There are a number of steps that nurses wearing PPE can take to help manage the effects of heat stress whilst working. We’ve broken our advice down into steps you can take before starting your shift and steps you can take whilst on shift.

Before starting a shift

You must’ve heard the old saying ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ right? Well, this applies to getting ready to work a long shift when it’s hot outside. What you do before work will have a big impact on the way your shift pans out. ​

  • Hydrate. Drink plenty of fluids and stay hydrated during your time away from work

  • Lay off the booze. Try to limit the amount of alcohol you drink prior to working

  • Hydrate again. Before donning PPE drink plenty of chilled water

  • Recuperate. Cooldown, rest, and hydrate between shifts. Repeated exposure can increase the risk of heat stress

  • Exercise. Improve aerobic fitness through exercise

  • Acclimatize. Gradually acclimatize your body to the heat, this will lower your core temperature. Acclimatization will occur when working at least an hour a day in the heat for 7 days

Whilst on shift

Nursing shifts can be long and extremely busy. However, it is vital that you take adequate steps to help deal with the effects of the heat whilst working, otherwise, heat stress and fatigue are going to be knocking on your door very quickly. Implementing just a few of these tips throughout your shift should help you manage the heat and keep your mind sharp and focused.

  • Take regular short breaks. Be sure to remove your mask when you can

  • Stay hydrated! Drink little and often throughout your shift and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Try keeping a bottle or jug close by to remind you to drink more

  • Avoid caffeine. Caffeinated drinks increase water loss and dehydrate you faster

  • Cool off. Wash your face and the back of your neck with cold water or cooling spray

  • Check your urine. Dark and smelly urine is a sign that you need to drink more fluids

  • Keep blinds drawn. Stay out of direct sunlight and keep working environments shady

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing. Thin and loose clothing such as scrubs can be a good option

These are just a few examples of quick and easy for nurses wearing PPE to stay cool whilst on shift and combat heat stress. Adopting some of these tips into your daily routine will improve your experience of working in hot weather and help you remain professional while working. Hydrated and active agency nurses often feel more energized at work and the physical stresses of the job take less of a toll on active muscles. Do you have any personal tips to beat the heat whilst working?

Whether you’re a Community Nurse, Registered General Nurse, or an Emergency Nurse Practitioner if you’re interested in working through the UK’s premium nursing agency as an agency nurse register today.

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