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Call Her the Fitness Nurse

Call Her the Fitness Nurse

Buchantakes a blood sample from Karl Noonan for a cholesterol test. Noonan was a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins in 1972, when the team was unbeaten and won the Super Bowl. (Charlotte Observer)

Beth Sussman / Special to the Charlotte Observer

January 26, 2009

Mary Buchan wasn’t content with a typical nursing job. She believes in holistic health, and she wanted to make sure she was helping people in mind, body and spirit.

So instead of coursing hospital halls, she’s carrying out her mission at the Dowd YMCA, where she runs a program for those who need to change their lifestyles to improve their health. Since 2001, she has worked with hundreds of people who need to lose weight, work out and pick up healthy habits that will improve their quality of life.

“I’d rather help people stay healthy than help them after the fact,” said Buchan, 48. “It’s a more positive type of nursing.” Buchan is one of 13 health nurses employed through Carolinas HealthCare System who work out of 12 of the Charlotte YMCAs and the Jewish Community Center. CHS started placing nurses in the community centers 10 years ago as an extension of the hospital to help the community, said Jennifer Gardner, assistant director for Carolinas Medical Center Health Centers.

“All the nurses have chosen this route to live their passion for health and fitness,” Gardner said.

A 6-week program

Buchan is available throughout the day to take blood pressure readings or to discuss a fitness plan with one of the several YMCA patrons who regularly pop into her office while they’re already at the Y to work out.

But the majority of Buchan’s work revolves around the Medical Referral Program, where nurses develop a nutrition and fitness plan for patients who have not exercised in many years.

The nurses work with patients for six weeks as they get accustomed to their new lifestyle and exercises. They meet with her once a week and from there, patients proceed on their own but can get more help from nurses and others if they need it.

As a certified personal trainer, Buchan is equipped to recommend the exercises that will benefit each patient the most.

For very overweight patients, for example, Buchan says that using water aerobics is often the best way to start the process of losing weight. She recently helped a 400-pound man lose 30 pounds by having him work out in the pool.


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