The importance of water to our body and its functions is multi-faceted, according to Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) and Dietitians Australia spokesperson Jane Freeman.
It influences everything from our body temperature to our levels of fatigue and plays a role in how we excrete waste, whether through urine or our skin.
“Your body is made up of about 50 to 75% of water… even [missing as little as] as 2% [of fluid] really can affect how well you perform cognitively and how you feel,” she says.
Ms Freeman says monitoring the colour of your urine is also a good way to detect when an increase in hydration is required (If it’s a pale straw colour, you are fine, but if it’s more like an apple juice colour, then hydration is probably needed).
But while Ms Freeman, who provides advice in areas ranging from oncology to women’s health, is clear on why we need fluid, she says deciding the amount of hydration a nurse or midwife should consume is a process often influenced by environmental factors.
Ms Freeman says nurses and midwives could need to consume up to 3 litres of water depending on their workplace set-up.
“Broadly speaking, we really should be taking at least 1.5 to 2 litres [of water] every day… you may need more depending on the air conditioning or the environment that the nurses are working in.”
While the idea of hydration is often considered to be the consumption of water, Ms Freeman says there are other forms of hydration to consider, whether that be soda water, milk, yoghurt or soup. Select fruits and vegetables, including grapes, berries, stone fruits, celery and cucumber also contain high water content.
Even a couple of cups of coffee, or up to five cups of tea, at the right times of the day, can positively affect your hydration without creating diuresis.
Ms Freeman says the easiest method for someone struggling to get the required amount of water into their daily routine is to simply grab a “big mug of something”, which adds “comfort” as well as hydration to the day.
“Obviously nurses have very stressful and busy jobs… [It’s] a really good way to stop and catch your breath, and at the same time you’re re-hydrating of course,” she says.
“Sometimes people end up emotionally eating or grabbing snacks, but in fact, if they can instead just find a really lovely, big mug of something they really enjoy, whether it be just a nice cup of herbal tea or a chai tea or whatever, it’s a really nice… sort of habit to have.”
In acknowledging the stresses that nurses and midwives are under, as well as the difficulties created by the hygiene requirements of COVID, Ms Freeman says it can be tricky to stay on top of your hydration fluids. Still, she stresses that ensuring one’s wellbeing is a significant part of patient care.
“It’s hard when you’re a busy health professional, for sure,” she says.
“But you’ve got to look after yourself as part of being able to effectively look after others of course, so it is important.”