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Curbing Nurse Obesity Can Shrink Hospital Costs

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, March 5, 2012

One of the troubling ironies of nursing is that many of the people who dedicate their lives to healing patients do so at the expense of their own health. It doesn't have to be this way.

Hospitals can be dangerous work environments for healthcare professionals. There is the threat of exposure to an alphabet soup of hepatitis and tuberculosis strains, along with other dangerous pathogens. There is also the threat of violence and injury at the hands of angry, frightened, drugged out, drunk, and mentally unbalanced patients, their friends, and family.  

And now a recent study in Journal of Nursing Administration that examined survey data from 2,103 female nurses has determined that 55% of them are obese. For context, 34% of adult Americans are considered obese, while another 34% are considered overweight but not obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of course, there is no reason to expect that nurses should be exempt from the overweight and obesity epidemic that is plaguing this country. However, it is disheartening to learn from the JNA survey data that nurses are actually at greater risk than the general population.

Kihye Han, PhD, RN, the lead researcher for the study, and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, says she was drawn to the topic when she first came to United States from her native South Korea and confronted our overweight and obese epidemic firsthand.

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