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Staff should be able to drink fluids at nurse stations, says chief nursing officer

Ruth May responds to student’s tweet, emphasising employers’ duty to help staff stay hydrated

Ruth May responds to student's tweet, emphasising employers’ duty to help staff stay hydrated on shift

Nurses should be allowed to drink water while on duty, England’s chief nursing officer (CNO) said, following reports some were banned from doing so.

Ruth May highlighted the importance of staying hydrated at work, in response to a tweet from nursing student Rebecca Lennox.

Twitter reaction on water being banned from nurse stations

Ms Lennox, a second-year nursing student at Liverpool John Moores University, said she had been prevented from drinking water at the nurses' station while on placement.

Ruth May responds to student's tweet, emphasising employers’ duty to help staff stay hydrated on shift

A nurse drinking water on shift
Picture: iStock

Nurses should be allowed to drink water while on duty, England’s chief nursing officer (CNO) said, following reports some were banned from doing so.

Ruth May highlighted the importance of staying hydrated at work, in response to a tweet from nursing student Rebecca Lennox.

Twitter reaction on water being banned from nurse stations

Ms Lennox, a second-year nursing student at Liverpool John Moores University, said she had been prevented from drinking water at the nurses' station while on placement.

The CNO’s comment came after the Met Office put out an extreme heat warning for parts of the UK last week, as temperatures reached up to 32°C.

The nursing student’s tweet prompted others to share negative experiences, such as not being allowed to carry water bottles while on shift or drinks being thrown in the bin by senior nursing staff.

Examples of good practice on hydration

However, others shared examples of good practice and said hydration was actively encouraged by their employers.

Chief nurse’s message of support matters

Ruth May

Ms Lennox told Nursing Standard she took to Twitter after receiving emails from her university reminding students to ensure patients were kept hydrated during the hot weather.

‘How can you say we have to look after patients when we can’t look after ourselves because we are not able to have water out or go to the toilet?’ she said.

‘Trusts have a lot of posters up saying staff need to hydrate and refuel, but then you’ll be on shift and you are being told you can’t drink water.’

She said Ms May’s supportive tweet meant a lot to her and her peers.

Ms Lennox said: ‘We can now say the chief nurse has said she is happy for us to have water.’

Keeping cool in PPE

Advice from Infection Prevention Society past president Pat Cattini, lead infection prevention and control nurse at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London:

  • Take a drink before donning any PPE
  • Remove your mask when you can and take regular short breaks
  • Frequently apply lip balm and face moisturiser, including to your ears
  • Beware of sore or red patches on the bridge of your nose or strap contact points behind the ears. Loosen the mask or protect your skin with a plaster
  • ‘Buddy up’ – ask your colleague how they are managing with their mask and remind them of these tips

Employers have a duty under health and safety legislation

RCN deputy director of nursing Matthew Barker said employers are duty bound under health and safety legislation to ensure staff have easy access to a plentiful supply of drinking water.

If nursing staff are having difficulty accessing drinking water or are not allowed to take comfort breaks, they should contact their union representative and raise the issue with their line manager, he added.


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