Your views

Readers’ panel: Is it reasonable to expect nurses to be role models for healthy weight? 

Obesity undermines clinicians’ ability to give patients credible health advice, says NHS England

According to NHS England, obesity undermines the ability of healthcare professionals to give patients credible and effective health advice. Nursing Standard readers have their say

Picture: SPL

Liz Charalambous is a staff nurse and PhD student in Nottingham


Although I can see the attraction of this argument, expecting nurses to conform to perceived expectations about their appearance sets a dangerous precedent. Setting parameters for employees’ body weight is not only restrictive, it is dictatorial and impinges on personal freedom and choice. Evidence shows that nurses are not always supported to maintain healthy lifestyles, inside and outside the workplace, so it would make more sense to invest in a comprehensive and supportive infrastructure to encourage healthy living.


Drew Payne is a community staff nurse in north London


If we are serious about improving nurses’ health, we need to address our unhealthy working conditions; long shifts with no breaks, chronic understaffing, lack of sports clubs to help us keep fit, and unhealthy and unsubsidised food in canteens. The one at my trust, for example, has mostly fried and baked food. It is unacceptable to demand that nurses be healthy weight role models if all that happens is we are told to lose weight. Employers have their part to play, but so far most seem to have done next to nothing.

Rachel Kent is a mental health nurse in London

While I agree that health advice may be better received if it comes from a ‘healthy nurse’, it could be argued that it is more motivational for patients to take advice from a nurse who is actually doing what they are advising patients to do, such as losing weight. A nurse who can say “I’m doing this and it’s working for me” may be better at convincing someone to adopt a healthier lifestyle than someone who has maintained a healthy weight.


Grant Byrne is a nursing student in Edinburgh


On paper, it sounds reasonable, but in practice things are different. Nurses are great at promoting healthy behaviours in others but the job doesn’t make it easy to do ourselves. Long hours, skipped breaks, missed lunches and an endless supply of treats from grateful relatives all add up to a recipe for obesity. If we want to see healthy nurses, it must start at work, but it’s about more than a fruit bowl at the nurses’ station. Employers need to value their staff and support them to maintain healthy lifestyles.

Readers’ panel members give their views in a personal capacity only

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