The Dog Ate My Care Plan…

Just a mom/wife/nursing student extraordinaire trying to make it in the big bad city…

Do As I Say Not As I Do?

Posted by isntshelovlei on January 6, 2011

According to the CDC, almost thirty-four percent of adults in the U.S. are obese. Surely that figure includes some of our doctors and nurses. In the shift from “sick care” to “health care,” or a more preventative health care model, we should be seeing a lot more patient education. But as a patient, how do you think I am going to look at you when you sit me down for the weight loss speech: chastising my diet/eating habits, telling me I need to increase my physical activity…if your BMI is just as high if not higher than my own? Isn’t that like the pot calling the kettle black?

Then at higher risk for heart attack and stroke we have our smokers, and more than twenty percent of adults in America smoke. If I’m a cardiac patient and you’re doing my discharge teaching and telling me how much I really need to kick the stick yet anyone standing within three feet of you knows that’s not perfume you’re wearing but more like eau de cigarette…I mean really…no wonder so much patient education just goes in one ear and out the other.

I’m not saying that health care professionals need to be perfect—totally abstaining from all smoking, drinking, and drugs (I mean what would I do without my caffeine?), and only eating tree bark and berries, after all, we’re human too, but shouldn’t we be a little healthier—or at least striving to be? What exactly is our responsibility (if any) to our patients here? Are we obligated to set any kind of example? Most of us are willing to inject foreign substances into ourselves all in the name of our “duty” to our patients. It seems to me that losing a few pounds or quitting smoking is a lot less invasive…

When faced with health care decisions patients will oftentimes turn to the health care provider and ask “if it were you, what would YOU do?” That’s because we’re the “professionals,” we’re more familiar with the most up-to-date research, we’re supposed to know what’s best (or at least be able to make an evidenced-based recommendation). Patients tend to look at their HCP as sort of a health role model. But when we don’t seem to be making healthy lifestyle choices ourselves, do we lose our credibility as patient educators?

Maybe a little practicing what we preach is in order…

9 Responses to “Do As I Say Not As I Do?”

  1. Jen said

    I agree. I’m a nursing student and I am a healthy weight, do not smoke, maintain a healthy diet, and exercise regularly. The same cannot be said about many other nursing students and doctors and nurses that I know. In my nursing class I think the weight of the students seems to fairly representative of the population at large. I guess even knowing the harm of unhealthy habits and lifestyle habits people are unwilling to change or are unsuccessful at changing. One thing that could be done I read about on another blog (April’s CR Diary at How about asking your co-workers to sign a junk food free pledge for the workplace common areas? Is it really helpful to your co-workers to fill up break rooms with junk food? Anyway, I started asking people I work with if they’d sign such a pledge. No takers so far, mostly just laughter.

  2. Rachel said

    My mom and I were just talking about that this past weekend. We suggested that the skinniest nurses should deliver advice to patients so they don’t come off hypocritical.
    Haha, which is why I’m starting P90X soon. Check out my latest blog all about it:

  3. It seems ironic but it’s like that with any profession – a painter’s house is the last one to get painted and doctors and nurses are so busy caring for others they don’t always take care of themselves.

  4. Tai said

    I have read, although now I can’t remember where it was I read it so I can’t cite it (I promise I looked quickly!) that nurses are not allowed to be obese (by BMI standards) in Japan. They have a BMI threshold they have to stay under to stay licensed.

    Which is taking it to a ridiculous extreme, and on the other hand sort of makes sense to me as healthcare providers do need to be able to do things like move easily and quickly, and obesity can cause all sorts of problems leading to not being able to do that, but … taking away someone’s license? I’m a fan of Health at Every Size and all it stands for, and I think that literally taking away someone’s license just for weight has gone too far. In fact, taking away a license for anything health-related is going too far.

    • isntshelovlei said

      Ah yes, Japan and it’s ban on obese nurses–that was mentioned in a recent scrubs article, “10 nursing rules you’ve never heard of.”

      I do agree revoking licensure is extreme. How about a little help, a little intervention? I know a lot of employers offer stuff like Weight Watchers, gym membership discounts, etc. But a lot of people don’t take advantage of these resources. Some people don’t care; they don’t want (or have time) to improve their health. “I’m fine the way I am.” No, you’re not. And I don’t know who you’re trying to convince–me or yourself.

      On a personal note, I myself have lost a lot of weight over the past year or so. Not only was I miserable, but I began to develop so many weight-related health problems–joint pain, sleep apnea, abnormal heart rhythms… Not only did I want to improve my health for myself and my family (I’m only 29!), but I had also begun to feel “weird” going into patient rooms doing education on healthy eating and exercise while the elastic band on my scrubs was digging into my love handles. But many of the health care professionals around me don’t seem to be bothered by that–they just buy bigger pants…

  5. Jaime said

    Good thoughts! I’m worried about my own wellness as I enter the profession! Any advice?

    • isntshelovlei said

      Pack your lunch!

      I work night shift. They are always partying/eating for something. It’s Nurses’ Week–let’s eat! We met our handwashing goal–let’s eat! I bought new shoes–let’s eat! Okay, I’m exaggerating a little but you get my point. And it’s always junk food, cakes, cookies, cinnabuns, donuts, enough to make you go into a carb coma. Once they had a breakfast (all night) with all these different types of bacon, sausage, pancakes, pastries…how can you not want to curl up in a ball and go to sleep after eating all that? It also doesn’t help that the only thing open in the hospital at this hour is a McDonald’s–so the healthy food options are slim :-/

      So I bring my own bag of goodies every night–fruits, veggies, yogurt, snacky-stuff. I just can’t get into eating a full course meal or even “lunch” at 3am anyway. You just have to make a conscious effort to take care of yourself (after all if you can’t take care of you, can you really take care of others?) and not get sucked into what people around you may be doing.

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