The prevalence of obesity is higher among nurses than in any other group of healthcare professionals. Obesity is an issue for the nursing workforce because of its effects on work-related sickness absence and productivity, through related conditions such as arthritis and diabetes.
Aim To investigate the attitudes, motivations and behaviours of, and the uptake of workplace health initiatives by, nurses who are obese.
Method Nurses who are or were obese and who practised in England were recruited at the Royal College of Nursing congress in Glasgow in June 2016. Participants were asked to complete a short survey on their attitudes to weight, and the effectiveness and availability of workplace health initiatives.
Results A total of 196 nurses were surveyed, of which 95% (n=186) wanted to lose weight and 94% (n=185) thought that it was an issue for nurses to be obese, particularly because being obese made it challenging to discuss weight-loss and healthy lifestyles with patients. Participants expressed an interest in undertaking workplace health initiatives if these could be accommodated around their working hours and were free. However, 38% (n=75) of participants reported that their workplace did not offer any such initiatives to improve staff health.
Conclusion Obesity is often considered to be the result of an individual’s lifestyle choices; however, nurses may experience environmental constraints in relation to their working practices that may affect their ability to lead healthy lifestyles. These factors should be addressed to reduce the high levels of obesity in the nursing workforce.