Patients with body image fears to be supported by trained healthcare professionals

A two-week training course has been developed in response to a lack of expertise among healthcare professionals in supporting patients with body image issues

A course has been developed after academics identified a dearth of expertise among healthcare professionals in handling vulnerable patients worried about their appearance.

As part of the study, led by the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), healthcare professionals were asked whether they had insufficient knowledge to effectively help patients with appearance concerns. These include patients with an altered appearance caused by health conditions, medical treatments and injuries.

Of the 700 healthcare professionals from five European countries who took part in the study, 70% said they would benefit from further training.

Heidi Williamson, who is working on the When looks get in the way project, said: ‘Healthcare professionals need to know who is distressed and how to provide support.

‘There are differences in the way individuals respond to appearance changes and that's what we need to make healthcare professionals aware of. They need to raise the issue, talk about it and find out the patient's perspective and support needs.’

The training is expected to run in universities as an accredited course from 2017 but will also be available as an online resource and will be open to nurses.

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