Heatwave: A Guide for Nurses

Heatwave: A Guide for Nurses

The UK is experiencing some unusually balmy weather at the moment – an unfortunate sign of things to come, as heatwave conditions are again anticipated this summer. The dangerous weather conditions are a result of climate change, and set to worsen in time; the conditions also pose an immediate threat to working people, particularly those on the frontlines of our most important sectors. As a nurse working necessary and vital shifts for the NHS, what are some safety tips to follow for the coming heatwaves?

Drink Fluids

Hot working conditions are easy to underestimate, in one major way: hydration. When working in warm conditions, we sweat in order to regulate our body temperature. The evaporation of sweat from our skin wicks heat away with it, cooling us. This also depletes the fluid reserves in our bodies, at a quicker and more tangible rate than we tend to realise.

One a busy day doing rounds, it is easy to lose track of when you last drink water. With your body constantly accounting for the hot conditions, you can dehydrate multiple times faster than on temperate days. The result is dehydration, which can lead to weakness, fainting and confusion. As such, you should make it a priority to keep topped up on water where possible – either with an hourly alarm or regular breaks. Speaking of which:

Take Breaks

It is not always possible to take regular breaks on a shift, as has been repeatedly documented in the media by overworked medical staff in the NHS. However, self-preservation is crucial in dangerous conditions, and the quality of care you deliver could suffer without first tending to your own needs.

Taking regular breaks allows you to drink water and recuperate, while also minimising the potential for overexertion and heat exhaustion. All the better if you can find a shaded or air-conditioned space in which to rest.


As a nurse, you will already be intimately familiar with yours and any other medical institution’s requirements when it comes to PPE. Face masks, nitrile gloves and scrubs are all non-negotiable items of PPE. Wearing PPE during a heatwave, though, can get tricky – particularly if you are perspiring heavily.

The solution is to ensure you are changing your safety gloves regularly, so as to avoid unpleasant sensations and reduced mobility. PPE is also more likely to become unsanitary at a quicker rate in warm weather, making increased changes more hygienic for patients.

Avoid Caffeine

Finally, a note of caution that may not be particularly well received: avoid caffeine where possible. Caffeine is a diuretic, which can have extremely negative impacts on your hydration levels throughout the day. Keeping your fluid levels topped-up is essential in hot weather, and caffeine – helpful as it may be for your wakefulness – is the enemy of hydration. Where possible, you should try and keep to water.