Nursing and Care Staff Working in a Heatwave

During a heatwave, it is important we keep both staff and patients safe.

It doesn’t matter if you work in a hospital, GP surgery, clinic, theatre or community; the hot weather affects us all.

Patients and healthcare staff are at an increased risk of dehydration and heat stress.

If you feel your work environment is too hot, you should speak to senior managers and estates department promptly.

Employers have a responsibility to ensure both patients and staff are safe – you should ask them to implement your local ‘Heatwave Policy’ and contingency planning procedures.

According to The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Act, there are no maximum temperatures, but employers must take “every possible step” to ensure their employees are safe and “comfortable”.

Keeping staff and patients safe.

Here are a few tips to keep both you, as a nurse or healthcare professional, and your patients safe;

  • Keep hydrated. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. Have a non-spill large cooler water bottle on hand all day and drink little and often. You should verbally encourage other co-workers to do this as well.
  • Consider IV fluids for patients. The appropriate use of IV Fluids should be implemented for patients who are not drinking.
  • Look at the Color of urine. Dark colored urine can often signify dehydration as can hypotension. Be vigilant and act on signs of dehydration.
  • Feel fresh. Washing your face or using a cool spray-can help you feel fresh. You can also offer patients small damp towels.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks. Caffeine can have a diuretic effect which increases water loss and contributes to dehydration. Try and stick to water or squash if possible.
  • Keep blinds and curtains drawn. Try to keep your working environment out of direct sunlight.
  • Stay out of the sun. Don’t go out between 11am and 3pm – the hottest part of the day.
  • Wear loose clothing. Wear thin and loose clothing for work if possible – ideally surgical scrubs. Ensure patients are dressed appropriately.
  • Work smarter – not harder. Where possible, schedule harder work and physically demanding tasks for cooler parts of the day. When this is unavoidable, consider sharing the load / rotating with another co-worker.
  • Take breaks. You’ll need your breaks more than ever! Make effective use of your breaks. Sit, put your feet up and get some fresh air.
  • Open windows at night. The air will be cooler in the evenings or at night. Open windows at this time to bring in some fresh air.

Don’t suffer in silence. Discuss any concerns you have with senior colleagues and managers. Hospitals, care homes and local authorities should have contingency plans and equipment in place for heatwaves.