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Can Fat Nurses Be Good Nurses?

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.

Next: Change is Possible >>

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    Degrading article. Weight changes fluctuate along life's continuum. For most people, sustaining what society and medical weight charts consider "optimal weight" is a difficult and guilt inducing challenge. Metabolic rate, body composition and nutrition are areas we can attempt to change. The effort requires continued vigilance on an individual's part. The stresses and hours of the nursing profession are phenomenal. The salary does not address the need for a living wage in today's economy and is not commensurate with the expectations and demands. An individual's personal behavior can only be controlled by the individual. Specific disease processes can wreak havoc on one's lifestyle. The intent of the article is good - nothing new is offered.

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