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Nurses need hydration! Top 5 ways to keep hydrated during your shift.

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You know the routine. You get to work at O-dark thirty with some sort of highly caffeinated beverage in your hand, then suddenly 12 hours go by. You haven’t even finished your cold coffee, let alone the water you were supposed to drink.

You know water is essential. Like really important. Water plays a role in every cellular process or system in your body.

According to Harvard Medicine, water helps you:

  • Get nutrients and hormones to the right places
  • Keep things regular by aiding digestion
  • Cushions those aching joints
  • Normalizes your blood pressure and heart rates
  • Keep your weight down

Still, knowing and doing are two different things. It’s easy to let water slip when you are tired and don’t have much time to stop and take a sip. After all, nurses are a different breed of superhuman.

Caffeine is the go-to for many of us in the form of coffee, soda, or energy drinks. It’s not hard to see why since caffeine is a stimulant capable of increasing performance, helping the brain make faster connections, and helping you stay alert. What nurse doesn’t need those advantages in the workplace?

Still, caffeine is also a diuretic in larger doses, meaning you are losing more water the more caffeinated beverages you drink. What does that boil down to? One cup of coffee isn’t going to cause a problem, but three monsters, a cup of Joe, and a Diet dew isn’t helping you (and likely isn’t working as well as it used to)

Caffeine blocks your adenosine receptors, so dopamine isn’t released into your system. Since dopamine is responsible for focus, happiness, and motivation, you can see how using a stimulant instead of the body’s natural dopamine may not work to your advantage. 

That brings us back to the regulator of all regulators: good old-fashioned water. 

So how do we get more of the good stuff in and still keep some of the benefits of the old?

Start small. Make a goal that for every caffeinated beverage you drink, you drink one glass of water. You can’t have another caffeinated drink until you’ve gotten the water down. Since you are likely still craving that caffeine, this is a great way to get started. Here are some great tips:

Get a bottle you absolutely love. 

Some people prefer to fit it all in at once so they can see their progress. Some people need pretty, sustainable bottles that won’t get a weird aftertaste the first time you wash them. Some people prefer a straw, others a water-tight lid. These stainless steel Iron Flask bottles come with several options so you can pick which style of lid works best for you. Don’t be afraid to branch out. As you are trying to get your water in, is there one type that makes it easier than another?

Add flavoring. 

Sometimes water just isn’t what you are looking for. Adding a little flavor can go a long way; just know that some options have caffeine and may have sugar or sugar additives. If you are looking for a beautiful bottle with easy-to-manage drops, try Waterdrop for some great flavor without being too sweet. If you are looking for a less expensive option, check out Verywell fit for their list of tried and true favorites. 

Make a routine. 

According to James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, one of the best ways to make a habit is to create a habit cue.  A habit cue means every time something happens (whatever you decide), you follow up with the habit. So for water, it could be that every time you take a sip of a caffeinated beverage, you take two sips of water. Store them both side by side, and soon you will have formed the habit of drinking twice as much water as caffeine. 

Make a goal.

Experts say you should get about one ounce of water for every kilogram you weigh. So a 154 lb woman should get about 70 ounces of water in a day. Divide that by 3 or 4 and set markers for when that portion of your goal should be completed. In this example, the nurse needs to drink about 20 ounces of water with breakfast or on the drive to work, 20 ounces by lunch, 20 ounces by 3 pm meds, and then finish the remainder on the drive home. Figure out what works best for you. For example, you may find that you are more likely to be successful if you drink more water in the morning, which helps you limit your water before bedtime. After all, no one likes getting up several times a night to use the bathroom.

Keep a diary or a tracker. 

Nothing screams success like notable differences in how you feel. If you are a numbers person, keep track of your intake using a habit tracker like Habitbull. Better yet, keep a diary. If you start to notice that you feel more alert on the days you drink more water, it will go a long way in creating a habit. Did you lose weight? How are your emotions? There are a billion journal options out there that can help you track everything from your daily water intake to your feelings. Tracking is a great way to spot trends and overcome barriers to meeting your goals. 

No matter what you decide to do, increasing your water can have a positive impact. The only real negative is more trips to the bathroom, which usually decreases as your body gets used to your newfound hydration status. We’ve featured a few great products here, but rest assured, we aren’t paid to sponsor them. So pick a product that works for you and tell us your tricks for getting more water in each day!



Amanda Ernst, DNP, RN, CEN

Amanda Ernst, DNP, RN, CEN


Amanda is an ER nurse with 10 years of healthcare experience. She currently works as a nurse educator and as an adjunct professor for several schools. She also works as a freelance healthcare writer in her spare time. Amanda thinks the greatest thing about nursing is the endless possibilities and opportunities to learn. What have you learned today?


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