Is Obesity in Nursing Getting Worse? Study Says Yes

Obesity is a growing problem among the general population, but it’s even worse among nurses.

In a survey that looked at obesity nurse data from 2008 to 2012, researchers found that 25.1 percent of the 422 nurses studied had a BMI of more than 30. 

The study also looked at 20,000 adults and found that the general population only has an obesity rate of 23.5 percent.

However, by making changes to your lifestyle, you can keep your weight in check so that your commitment to patient care doesn’t suffer. 

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What’s Causing Nurse Health To Plummet?

Laurie D McGinley, DNP, RN, APRN, RNFA, ACNS-BC, CBN, a Bariatric Program Coordinator at the Western Bariatric Institute, believes that three main factors are in play for the discrepancy in nurse health with that of the general public: 

  • Lack of time for planned physical activity
  • Crazy sleep patterns
  • Lack of planned meals

“Obese people are more prone to illness, and this leads to more sick time and staffing concerns,” said McGinley. 

This reflects data from the initial study, which noted that musculoskeletal and mental health problems were two of the biggest causes of sickness absence in the workplace.

“Many obese nurses lack the stamina to continue through a long workday,” said McGinley. “They may not be able to provide care due to personal mobility issues.”

She also noted that both of these nurse health issues present “potential safety issues for both nurse and patient when safe patient handling is a goal.”

4 Ways To Prevent Obesity in Nurses

“Strategies to stay fit are the same for nurses as for anyone else,” said McGinley. She recommended the following tips to lower obesity nurse rates:

1. Exercise More 

“Find a way to fit planned physical activity into a busy day,” said McGinley. This might include using the stairs at work, taking a walk during your lunch break, or wearing a pedometer to track your steps. Before or after your shift, try to hit the gym or complete an exercise video at home.

2. Create a Support System

Getting fit on your own is hard, which is why McGinley suggests creating a workout group for inspiration. You’ll motivate each other to keep trying when things get tough. If you need even more help, look to professionals. “There are specialists in the field of bariatric medicine who can provide input and guidance,” says McGinley.

3. Take Advantage of the Perks

In most cases, hospitals offer special perks for living a healthier lifestyle. McGinley says that nurses should “take advantage of employer incentives such as discounts for maintaining a healthy weight, blood pressure, and no smoking.”

4. Eat Better

When it comes down to it, your diet is the most important part of a healthy lifestyle. If you’re struggling in this area, McGinley thinks getting help from a dietician could be the way to go.

“Registered dietitians are a key part of the health team, and can assist with providing feedback on food choices, healthy alternatives, and behavior modification.”

Additionally, she recommends packing healthy snacks and meals for your lunch so you won’t be tempted to make unhealthy food choices.

“Allow for the occasional ‘treat,’ but make sure you take the time to enjoy it, and keep it portion-controlled,” said McGinley.

Overall, these are just a few suggestions to keep nursing obesity in check. Even if you just try a few steps at a time, you should begin to see changes that will positively affect your life.

“It’s not always about the numbers on the scale,” states McGinley. “You may have improved your blood pressure or another health issue—which is a good thing!”

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