Tips from TSE: Handle obese patients with sensitivity

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, February 13, 2009

Obese patients seeking healthcare often describe it as a battle. That’s why nurses must be made aware of the unique physical and mental needs of overweight and obese patients, says Laurie McGinley, MS, CNS-BC, APN, CBN, bariatric nurse manager at the Western Bariatric Institute  in Reno, NV, and president of the National Association of Bariatric Nurses.

“There are sensitivity issues dealing with equipment and weight limits—wheelchair sizes, doorway widths, bed capacity, the bathroom not having adequate handrails—all of these things that wouldn’t be an issue if they were a non-obese patient,” McGinley says.

McGinely trains nurses to be sensitive with “R-E-S-P-E-C-T: a model for the sensitive treatment of the bariatric patient,” originally published in Bariatric Nursing and Surgical Patient Care. The model encourages nurses to use tact, for example, by recognizing that terms such as “large size,” “obesity,” and “excess fat” may offend patients. Nurses can display tact with their patients by referring to excess weight, rather than excess fat.

Training is offered not only to nurses, but to anyone who works with patients on the floor, including the admitting staff. It has been effective in changing the perceptions of everyone at the clinic, McGinley says.

Editor’s note: This excerpt was adapted from the February issue of The Staff Educator. Discover all the benefits of subscribing to The Staff Educator!

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