Can Fat Nurses Be Good Nurses?
Marijke Durning | Scrubs Magazine
October 06, 2010
If the role of a nurse is to teach patients and the public about healthy lifestyles, is it possible for an overweight or obese nurse to be an effective nurse?
We know all too well that many of the chronic health issues seen today in the United States, including type 2 diabetes and hypertension, are related to diet and lifestyle. We’re taught in nursing school to encourage healthy lifestyles and teach patients and the public how to stay healthy.
And yet we’re guilty of not walking the walk.
A study published in May 2008 in the Journal of American Academy of Nurse Practitioners found that more than half of 760 nurses surveyed in six states were overweight or obese. When asked about issues with losing weight, 53 percent of the nurses in the overweight/obese group stated that although they recognized they should lose weight, they didn’t have the motivation to do so.
Why Nurses Aren’t Motivated
It’s not always easy to get motivated to do something you know you should do. Losing weight is generally on that list. For a nurse, undertaking a lifestyle change required to lose weight may take more work and effort than it might for someone who works regular hours and in a less stressful environment.
Irregular hours mean irregular eating times and perhaps difficulty squeezing in adequate amounts of exercise. If you haven’t planned ahead for meals and snacks, the only food available may not be what a dietitian would recommend for weight loss and health.
Since extra weight can contribute to illness and perhaps lost workdays, could the workplace, which gives nurses the erratic schedules and high stress levels, be responsible for a nurse’s lack of health?
Does Obesity Mean Incompetence?
Undoubtedly, a nurse’s skills have nothing to do with her body size. No matter who she is, her knowledge depends on three pounds, the average weight of a human brain. Retaining, assessing and processing information are no different between a nurse who weighs 120 pounds and one who weighs 180 pounds.