The cognitive function of a “significant” number of hospital nurses may be impaired because they are turning up for work dehydrated or not taking on sufficient fluids during shifts, according to UK researchers.
The study authors noted that dehydration of as little 2% of total body weight may impair physical and cognitive performance.
“A significant proportion of nurses and doctors were dehydrated at the start and end of medical and surgical shifts”
Their study, published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, was to investigate the prevalence of dehydration at the start and end of shifts in nurses and doctors on-call.
The research involved 88 nurses and doctors working on medical and surgical admissions wards at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.
Participants arrived on the ward approximately 20 minutes before their shift and were asked to provide a urine sample. Height and weight were then measured.
Cognitive function was assessed using a series of computer-based tests including the Stroop Colour Naming Interference Test and Sternberg Memory Paradigm.
Participants then worked normally, but were asked to keep a fluid diary for the duration of their shift and fluid balance was estimated. The tests were then repeated at the end of the shift.
The researchers found 36% of participants were dehydrated at the start of the shift and 45% were dehydrated at the end of their shift.
They also found that single number and five-letter Sternberg short-term memory tests were significantly impaired in dehydrated participants.
“This study highlights that a significant proportion of nurses and doctors were dehydrated at the start and end of medical and surgical shifts,” said the researchers in the journal Clinical Nutrition.
“Dehydration was associated with some impairment of cognitive function,” they added the study authors who were led by Mr Ahmed El-Sharkawy from Nottingham University.