Weighing Heavily On Hospitals


  • Home Health Columnist / Guide
    Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion. Has 46 years experience.

Philadelphia Inquirer, June 24, 2002

Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia sometimes calls out as many as three ambulances when a morbidly obese patient needs transport, just so there will be enough people to lift the patient. The rapidly increasing number of severely obese Americans is taxing the nation's healthcare system in some unexpected ways.


Has 15 years experience.

I know that it is not right to groan when you hear report of how large a person is, but 9 times out of 10 they require extra care and maintance that some one even half their size would not. Thank god, that we got slippery lifter sheets because I cannot tell you how many injuries we have just trying to lift these people up in bed. Most of the time they have some sort of respiratory compromise that doesn't allow you to lay their head flat and the help of gravity goes out the door. Plus our hospital just doesn't have the equipment needed to safely help these people with every day needs. I had a patient whom had chest pain and came in to our unit. I guess that she was about 425 though none of our scales could measure. She was fairly independent, though she signed out AMA d/t the fact that she was too large to fit in our very small bathrooms. (Our bathrooms are probably 3.5 feet wide by 5 feet long, just the room itself not including the sink and the toilet). We tried out every bathroom in the place. Took almost two hours. We just couldn't find one to please her. So she went home on her buttermilk and bacon diet- I am not kidding she really thinks she can lose weight with that. I guess all in all the article is correct in saying that the heaviest people truly tax the already overtaxed nurse.

Jas honey

36 Posts

gee as if i didnt already feel guilty enough for being fat all my life. i had that gastric bypass surgery in april so i wouldnt be a burden to myself, but now i am glad that i wont be a burden to the health care system or anyone else either . try not to look at us as if we are the most horrendous people in the world, it hurts


691 Posts

Specializes in Clinical Risk Management.

I was picking up a shift on one of the floors one Saturday when I rec'd a call. The voice on the other end said, "Hey, it's time to turn _______." I replied that this was a nursing unit & how could I help her? The nurse identified herself & told me about a patient they have on their unit. The patient weighs >1000 lbs & is comatose...on a vent as well. The long & short of is that every afternoon the call goes out to other nursing units for assistance to turn this patient. I went that day, as I was reasonably caught up with my charting & meds. There were 11 of us in the room, including a few men as well. It took less than 5 minutes to turn the patient & do a skin assessment & return the patient to the original position.

An interesting experience that is apparently a phenomena specific to the nursing culture at our hospital.


296 Posts

I was interested to read the comments on this posting.


1 Article; 5,758 Posts

It is about time someone calls attention to this problem.

Has 15 years experience.
Originally posted by Jas honey

. try not to look at us as if we are the most horrendous people in the world, it hurts

I hope that I didn't hurt anyone's feelings. I believe that most of us have struggled with our weight at some point. But there is validity to the increased amount of injury when weight goes up and independent care goes down. I am only 5'2 and there is only so many times I can pull on a patient regardless of weight due to my height and the fact that at any given time there are only 4-5 people at a time that are able to help with lifting.

So in short, I don't look at overweight people as the most horrendous people in the world. I am sorry if we made some feel that way. In terms of safety issues, it is a problem with dwindling staff and free time.

hoolahan, ASN, RN

1 Article; 1,721 Posts

Specializes in Home Health.

Couldn't have said it better myself moonshadeau. Not meant to hurt anyone's feelings, but it is a real concern.

In home care, we are out there w/o anyone to call, so we have to call the fire dept if a pt falls. The saddest case I saw lately was one of my pt's, she was 454 lbs. She died while her HHA was preparing her bkft. She was lying on her stomach, and the aide could not turn her to even do CPR, she called ambulance, but it was too late. It was hours before they could remove her body. The final indignity of it all, was just terrible.

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