Setting a bad example?

  1. I am curious about what people think about working nurses who are extremely out of shape, obese, smokers, etc.

    I work in a CVICU where a good portion of the nurses are overweight and out of shape, as well as a couple of smokers. I can't imagine that this makes a good impression on patients when these nurses sit down for teaching about risk factors, or to the general public when they come to visit.

    I'm not saying that I am a prime example of fitness, and I'm not saying that nurses need to be triathletes to set a good example. I also realize that there is the added problem of addiction that is hard to overcome.

    I guess I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that it bothers me. Thoughts anyone?
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  2. 94 Comments

  3. by   VAC
    It may not be politically correct, but I agree with you. Isn't it hypocritical for an obese nurse or a smoker to teach healthful eating and lifestyle habits? Would you listen to an overweight person telling you how to eat healthy, or a smoker telling you not to smoke? On the other hand, it's unrealistic to make practicing what you preach a prerequisite of a nursing job, especially with such a shortage going on....
  4. by   oramar
    I thought all the nurses at Lake Woebegone were above average.
  5. by   nur20
    I agree with you, however, no one is perfect. I am slim, in good shape, eat as healthy as i can, but i do smoke. Something that bugs me even down to the smell.I'm very paranoid about what people think about a nurse with this nasty habit, knowing what damage she is doing and doesn't have the courage to stop it. Makes me feel very hipocritical. I'm trying to make a new years resolution to stop this madness
  6. by   mcl4
    Originally posted by mattcastens
    I am curious about what people think about working nurses who are extremely out of shape, obese, smokers, etc.

    I work in a CVICU where a good portion of the nurses are overweight and out of shape, as well as a couple of smokers. I can't imagine that this makes a good impression on patients when these nurses sit down for teaching about risk factors, or to the general public when they come to visit.

    I'm not saying that I am a prime example of fitness, and I'm not saying that nurses need to be triathletes to set a good example. I also realize that there is the added problem of addiction that is hard to overcome.

    I guess I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that it bothers me. Thoughts anyone?


    Working nights, I don't see my role as teaching patients about nutrition as well as informing them of the risk factors of smoking. The population I care for are intelligent to know the risk factors from smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise. In fact, some of these patients are likely to be suffering the results of too much weight with problems with their knees or hip that required surgery as well as lungs that are not clear postop requiring nebs or resp. therapist assessing them. But it is up to the patient to change their diet or stop smoking and I don't see my role as teaching lifestyle changes at two in the morning.


    Do your coworkers at North know you feel this way about them or their images/smoking bothers you this much? Does it affect their job performance?
  7. by   mcl4
    Originally posted by VAC
    It may not be politically correct, but I agree with you. Isn't it hypocritical for an obese nurse or a smoker to teach healthful eating and lifestyle habits? Would you listen to an overweight person telling you how to eat healthy, or a smoker telling you not to smoke? On the other hand, it's unrealistic to make practicing what you preach a prerequisite of a nursing job, especially with such a shortage going on....

    Doesn't a dietitian in your hospital talk with patients about diet and nutrition. I've worked a few day shifts and other then delivering trays or changing a physician order diet in the
    computer, that is the extent of my teaching of nutrition.
    Any special diets, a dietitian will come up and see the patient.
    With their education background, they are more qualified to teach calorie/fat control diets then nurses.

    Smoking is not allowed in the hospital so patients are asked if they want a patch to help them with the no smoking policy while hospitalized. Occassionally, we've had to take patients outside to smoke.
  8. by   GPatty
    I think as long as a nurse is good, kind and knowledgeable in and about his/her profession, it shouldn't matter what he/she looks like. If a person is clean and professional in approach and appearance, I will accept advice and teaching gladly. I am overweight, but I do know the basics of healthy eating. Does that make me any less of a nurse to my patients? No. I don't think so.
    Julie
  9. by   fergus51
    I think we tend to forget that weight does not equal health. The least healthy nurse on our unit is as skinny as can be, but outeats her husband at MacDonalds and smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish. I could care less if a nurse is overweight or smokes as long as she does her job. If anything I would think a patient is better able to relate to a nurse with some faults rather than a superhuman
  10. by   Q.
    I see this discussion taking a turn.

    It's not about what the nurse looks like on if she is a good nurse or qualified nurse. But I think Matt has a point. I think it is a little hypocriticial to be overweight, a smoker etc and lecture patients about the risks of cardiac disease - whether you are a nurse or not. And yes I agree with Fergus that skinny doesn't equal healthy, but in general being overweight brings on a host of problems that not being overweight doesn't.

    I guess I see it as lecturing a patient about why inducing without a medical reason isn't the right way to go, but then in turn you as a patient demanding your own induction because you are tired of being pregnant or whatever.

    I think to be an effective teacher you need to truly believe what it is you are teaching. If you are lecturing your patient on eating right, exercising, stopping smoking, are you doing it by rote, or do you really believe it? If you do, why don't you practice it yourself? It will only do you good.
  11. by   mattcastens
    I would disagree with those who say that teaching about diet and heath is not a part of their job. One of the most important aspects of nursing is teaching about health -- preventative medicine. I work the night shift as well and always find time to do a little teaching. Granted, I'm not sitting down for a lengthy discussion, but when the patients are awake and using their incentive spirometer, or we're treating high blood pressure, a few carefully chosen words about preventative health can go a long way.

    In this vein, I feel that teaching by example is very important. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle shows patients how full their lives can be, and demonstrates what changes they can make to improve their health.

    Some of the unhealthiest nurses on our unit are also the smartest and best -- nurses that I greatly respect for their knowledge and skill. I simply wonder what message the public and our patients receive when a nurse with such an unhealthy lifestyle is caring for them.

    Maybe a solution is having employers take a more active role in helping nurses maintain health. I know there is a Weight Watchers group sponsored by my hospital, as well as smoking cessation programs from employee health.

    I don't claim to have the answers, I'm just wondering about the impact of the mixed message.
  12. by   mcl4
    Some of the unhealthiest nurses on our unit are also the smartest and best -- nurses that I greatly respect for their knowledge and skill. I simply wonder what message the public and our patients receive when a nurse with such an unhealthy lifestyle is caring for them.


    My guess is patients are happy with the fact that their nurse knows what they are doing and their lifestyle is secondary.
    I doubt patients who are in pain, facing difficult diagnosis or are critically ill are focus on the nurse, but themselves.
  13. by   Jenny P
    Matt, sometimes we are so busy taking care of others, that we forget to care for ourselves. I think this is one of the problems of nursing; we are "caretakers" of others and put ourselves on the bottom of the list-- a spot that we never seem to get around to. I'm as guilty as anyone else about this at this point in my life.
    Yes, we are setting a bad example for our patients, but I don't think that this has always been the norm. Maybe the stress of nursing today has caused this; when I think back to when I became an RN (some 30+ years ago), I don't remember many nurses who were overweight or smokers. I saw more smokers back in the '80's and '90's than I currently do, but there are definitely more overweight nurses today than in the past.
  14. by   mcl4
    [One of the most important aspects of nursing is teaching about health -- preventative medicine. I work the night shift as well and always find time to do a little teaching. Granted, I'm not sitting down for a lengthy discussion, but when the patients are awake and using their incentive spirometer, or we're treating high blood pressure, a few carefully chosen words about preventative health can go a long way.


    I've yet to see a nurse at two in the morning when patients are not fully awake start teaching lifestyle changes which include how they need to exercise, quite smoking or cut back on their fat intake. Patient assessments are done, needs are met, and we encourage rest which is very important part of recovery.

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