Working with those that struggle with eating disorders


I'm currently in nursing school and I'm really drawn to working with people who struggle with eating disorders. The question I have is what does a nurse exactly do in this area? I watched the Thin Documentary and this didn't give me any sort of idea except that they do daily weights but I know there has to be more. There is an eating disorder facility close to my house but they don't let the volunteers work with the patients or even go on the floor. I'm not sure about job shadowing but will look into that. Does anyone have feedback in this area? To be honest, after I watched the Thin Documentary I was really turned off to working in this area because it was made out to be a very unstructured environment where I could find it very frustrating to be helping those that struggle but them not really wanting help. I know it was a documentary but there has to be some truth to what I was seeing. Any thoughts on this are greatly appreciated!


Specializes in Psych/NICU. 3 Posts

Hi There,

I am currently a nurse at a residential treatment facility for individuals with eating disorders. It is definitely a different nursing environment than what you get in nursing school. Clinically, the nurse is responsible for medication administration and assessment of side effects and adverse reactions. We perform lab draws and EKGs on our residents. We also do physical assessments and monitor for refeeding syndrome etc. and communicate with the physicians about any physical complaints and medication issues. Depending on the facility, you will also be managing enteral nutrition (NG, G-tubes etc.) in conjunction with the Dietitian.

Working with eating disorders, the nurse is a part of a care team consisting of Dietitians, psychiatrists, psychologists, MDs etc. Furthermore, many patients with eating disorders have other psychiatric issues and mental disorders such as Bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, PTSD etc. You will definitely be dealing with many facets of psychiatric nursing.

This area of nursing can be very stressful and emotional but also very rewarding and fascinating. As with any nursing field, there are pros and cons. Yes, often these individuals do not "want" help, but know they need the help to survive. Not everyone will recovery from their ED, but there are many who do and to be a part of that process is very gratifying.

Good luck with your nursing career and let me know if you have any questions!

steelcityrn, RN

964 Posts

Thats a great description of working in that field.

littlemammanurse, BSN, RN

Specializes in PP, Pediatrics, Home Health. 1 Article; 185 Posts

I volunteer at an anorexia/bulemia clinic and I find it very challenging but also very exciting!It really is what badgeralum says it is!


Specializes in Psych/NICU. 3 Posts

Hi again - I am so new to this that I can't private message you back yet. If you can send me your email I will gladly answer some more of your questions :)



433 Posts

I would say you need to think of it as working as a psych RN, just a specific diagnosis being the focus. As you know eating disorders are a psych dx in the DSM. And like already stated many if not most willl have other psych issues as well.