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Dehydrated nurses' cognition affected, researchers warn

Researchers have warned patient safety could be compromised because a third of nurses are dehydrated at the start of their shift 

A third of nurses and doctors in a research study were dehydrated at the start of their shift and this affected their ability to remember sequences of numbers.

The researchers are warning that patient safety could be compromised because of the way dehydration affected cognitive function.

They reached their conclusions after examining dehydration levels among 40 nurses and 48 doctors before and after their shifts.

Participants provided a urine sample and blood sample for analysis prior to their shifts, before undertaking cognitive function tests.

The researchers from the University of Nottingham and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust found that both doctors’ and nurses’ cognitive function was significantly worse than expected when doing a certain test that involved remembering which numbers were present in a pattern.

The participants were on-call staff on medical admissions wards. At the end of shifts 45% of participants were found to be dehydrated.

The researchers’ paper states: ‘Although widely debated, cognitive impairment associated with dehydration is important to highlight as it may affect decision making and potentially influence patient outcome. Improved awareness and knowledge among medical staff of the prevalence and adverse effects of dehydration will aid the development of intervention strategies, which may enhance patient safety.’

The European Hydration Institute, which funded the study, is developing online hydration courses for health professionals to encourage them to drink more water.

Read the study here

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