RCN Congress, Glasgow 2016

Hearing the views of nurses who are obese: a survey of nurses

A survey of 197 nurses attending the RCN Congress in Glasgow investigated the attitudes, motivations, behaviours and service-use experiences of nurses who are obese.

The aim was to understand what nurses say causes obesity in nurses and the extent to which this may predict whether nurses are motivated to be of a healthy weight.

Key findings:

Preferred term to describe obesity

  • 38% preferred ‘overweight’
  • 28% preferred ‘obese’
  • 8% preferred ‘fat’

Cause of obesity

  • Shiftwork and a lack of breaks or short breaks

This was the main explanation that nurses had for the high prevalence of obesity amongst nurses.


  • 95% of the nurses wanted to lose weight and had tried before
  • 34% had had their own weight mentioned by a patient
  • 25% said that their own weight made them embarrassed to talk to patients about weight issues
  • 30% reported that their own weight made them less likely to raise the topic with patients

Support in the workplace?

  • 38% said their Trust did not offer any interventions to help nurses maintain a healthy weight

iPad winner

The winner of the survey draw at the RCN Congress was Pamela Miles. She is the Learning Disabilities Acute liaison nurse at Walsall Manor Hospital, supporting adults with learning disabilities to access mainstream health services. She has been in this role for the last four years but has always worked in the NHS, previously worked in specialist children’s respite and within a specialist hospital.