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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

When Plump Isn't Pleasing

Published March 5, 2009 1:09 PM by Valerie Newitt

How important is physical conditioning for nurses?

A recent ADVANCE article about Jessica Henry, BSN, RN, resident care supervisor at Luther Crest in South Whitehall, PA, detailed her staggering weight loss of more than 125 pounds in under a year. In the article, she mentions how her former state of obesity never hindered her on the job.

Or did it?

Henry admitted she couldn't get down on the floor for CPR practice on a dummy because she couldn't have gotten back up. She couldn't wear scrubs like everyone else, because they didn't fit. And sometimes she felt she simply wasn't taken seriously.

Seems to me, these are all very real hindrances.

I'm not beating Henry up. I admire her. She's the ultimate poster girl for doing the right thing. She adopted a sensible nutritional diet, started a walking plan, and decided to set a healthy example for her son.

But what about all those healthcare workers who never make that leap? How do they ensure patient trust on issues of clinically indicated diet and exercise when they are wearing adipose evidence of their own inability to follow doctor's orders?

In considering smart ways for hospitals to retain nurses, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's 2006 report called "Wisdom at Work" suggests on-site gyms and exercise coaches. Would you take advantage of such a job perk?

I know some stand firm on the idea that "big is beautiful" and there's certainly no desire on my part to say it isn't. Humanity is comprised of many shapes and sizes, all beautiful in their own way. And those with a little extra poundage have certainly been pillaged long enough.

But there's no denying that what is most beautiful of all is good health.  It's something to be cultivated, treasured and safeguarded. And I can't help but think that nurses could go a long way to effectively deliver that message by really practicing what they preach.

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