Purpose: To quantify the incidence of overweight and obesity in nursing professionals and assess nurses’ knowledge of obesity and associated health risks.
Data sources: A mailed survey to 4980 randomly selected registered nurses from one state in each of six geographic regions. Response rate was 15.5% (n= 760). Descriptive statistics were calculated for continuous variables; categorical variables were summarized with frequency counts.
Results: The grand mean body mass index (BMI) of nurses surveyed was 27.2. Almost 54% were overweight or obese. Fifty-three percent of these nurses report that they are overweight but lack the motivation to make lifestyle changes. Forty percent are unable to lose weight despite healthy diet and exercise habits. Only 26% of respondents use BMI to make clinical judgments of overweight and obesity. Although 93% of nurses acknowledge that overweight and obesity are diagnoses requiring intervention, 76% do not pursue the topic with overweight and obese patients.
Discussion: Many nurses provide weight-related health information to the public. These data suggest that they may benefit from continuing education on obesity and its risks. Because 76% of nurses do not pursue the topic of obesity with patients, they may benefit from education on pursuing sensitive topics during a professional encounter. Nurse practitioners may play a key role in the education of both patients and registered nurses.