Prompted by the Prime Minister’s decision to embrace more interventionist public health policies to tackle obesity rates, Charles Moore wrote in the Daily Telegraph there were probably no statistics on the issue of overweight nurses. He added, however, the nursing station in most hospitals contains one person with a BMI over 30.
There are, in fact, statistics, on this topic. A recent study shows nurses are no more likely to be overweight or obese than the rest of the population.
As a woman, I have to wonder, if ours was a male-dominated profession, would certain media commentators still be so obsessed with our size and shape?
At a time when nurses have gone above and beyond to care for their patients, many will be deeply hurt by Mr Moore’s attack on their weight when we all have a role to play in improving the health of the nation.
If nursing staff talked this way to their patients, people wouldn’t trust us or our advice. There’s a reason nurses rank consistently among the most trusted professionals.
The Royal College of Nursing is campaigning for healthy workplaces with improved access to nutritious food and healthier working patterns. Our resource, Rest, Refuel, Rehydrate, is a blueprint for health and social care managers to ensure that nursing staff are taking their at-work breaks, are well hydrated and have access to nutritional food.
The RCN worked with C3 Collaborating for Health, The RCN Foundation, London South Bank University and the Burdett Trust for Nursing on the Healthy Weight Initiative for Nurses (WIN) project. This culminated in an app, NURSING YOU, to help nurses determine how they make decisions at work and identify goals to be healthier.
However, our work is made more difficult with widespread, chronic vacancies across health and social care throughout the UK. Long shifts and working hours lead to poorer mental and physical health for nursing staff.
This is a more pressing issue than singling out nurses who, just like the country they care for, need to be supported to live healthier.
We are pleased to see the Prime Minister take our nation’s health seriously. But, the Government’s work shouldn’t stop here to reduce obesity rates. Policies need to be backed by substantial investment, including more investment in our nursing workforce.