How nurses can keep cool in the hospital


Shutterstock | Simone van den BergShutterstock | Simone van den Berg

Summer is officially in full swing! The temperatures and humidity are climbing, air conditioners are already working overtime and you’re stuck in the hospital for yet another long shift. If your employer is like mine, thermostats are automatically set from a central point, and nobody has yet taken notice that heat rises. As a result, the folks in the basement operating theaters freeze while those of us on the ninth floor swelter. The patients, those lucky sons-of-guns, get their own thermostats…but the rest of us are sweating in the common areas. How to cope? Read on:

  1. Stop eating food entirely. It’s best to subsist on frozen liquids like popsicles and frozen fruit bars. Chew ice. Drink cold sodas. Ice down your coffee.
  2. Use some of those frozen liquids to cool yourself off. If your food service offers ice cream bars, tuck one under each arm. Refrigerated blood and plasma, by the way, can offer the same cooling relief when stowed in an armpit or draped over the back of your neck. The bonus is that it warms it up for the patient!
  3. Ice machine + two bedpans + slip-on clogs equal a refreshing foot bath if you ever get the chance to sit down. If sitting down isn’t an option, a kidney basin full of ice can be tied on to the bottom of each of your feet for a portable version.
  4. Portable, tiny, battery-operated fans are available cheap at major retailers. Buy a dozen. Place them around your computer. Point them directly at yourself. Do not move.
  5. Switch to working nights, when it’s cooler. Sleep through the dog days of summer with your home thermostat set to 55 degrees. The overnight differential will help you afford the increase in your electric bill.
  6. As a last resort, draft interns or students to help. Purchase a few large palm-frond fans and convince the interns that you’re Cleopatra in disguise, and must be fanned constantly. This, given the famous lack of sleep that interns suffer from, will be easier than you think.

Enjoy your summer, everybody! Remember that it won’t last forever. Come November, when we’re setting small campfires in the break room, we’ll wish for sweltering days again.

Agatha Lellis
Agatha Lellis is a nurse whose coffee is brought to her every morning by a chipmunk. Bluebirds help her to dress, and small woodland creatures sing her to sleep each night. She writes a monthly advice column, "Ask Aunt Agatha," here on Scrubs; you can send her questions to be answered at

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