Nurses are the picture of care. They work tirelessly and selflessly to care for others who are hurt or ill. They care for our elderly and they care for our young.

But are they caring for themselves?

It’s not uncommon to see some nurses that are obese, which might be perceived as a conflicting image to some who feel that nurses are people that would maintain a “healthy lifestyle”.

But statistics show that obesity is a serious problem not only in the general population but also the nursing industry.

One British study by Healthy Weight Initiative for Nurses (WIN), a multi-agency project, found 25 per cent of UK nurses have an estimated body mass index of more than 30 and are, by definition, obese.

Similar trends have been seen in Scotland, where 40 per cent of nurses are obese, as well as in Australia and New Zealand.

Interestingly, when compared to other healthcare staff working in a same environment, the proportion of doctors, physiotherapists and other professionals indicated to be obese is at 16 per cent, still high but not as high as nurses.

And by no means is anyone suggesting that nurses are obese because of their career choices.

Obesity is a delicate subject as people are often uncomfortable talking about their weight. And it’s just as difficult trying to find a solution.

But instead of trying to “fix” it, why not look deeper into why this has become the case.

Christine Hancock, who runs C3 Collaborating for Health, interviewed more than 400 obese nurses to better understand the issue.

“Almost without exception they want to lose weight and have tried to, and a very high percentage think it affects their work: either their ability to do their work [or] how they communicate with patients about eating more healthily,” she told The Financial Times.

A surprising find for Hancock was how open the nurses were to talk about their weight, “we were very surprised at the enthusiasm with which nurses wanted to talk about this”.   

There are a number of reasons why a nurse, who works diligently at their job, might find themselves struggling with obesity.

Working in a ‘caring’ profession isn’t a job that you clock in and out of from 9 to 5 – it’s has them on their feet for hours on end, shift after shift.

Nurses can often find themselves working on little sleep, having eaten very little during or before/after their shift – which inevitably affects their weight.

In the challenge of dealing with such a heavy workload, many nurses find that they end up eating unhealthy alternatives in an effort to save time.

Most hospitals have their own canteen that nurses can buy food, but many have little variety and most options are unlikely to be healthy.  

Obesity can lead to other health risks, like heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, so it’s important for anyone who is heavily overweight to maintain a healthy balance.

Nurses can find this managing this balance particularly hard – they don’t work a regular routine like most other careers and their jobs demand so much of their time and concentration.

But at the end of the day, nurses, like everyone else, need to take care of themselves and ensure that their own health is just as much as priority as their patients’.

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