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Unhealthy nurses may be failing at work

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Last week I visited the eye clinic because I had developed acute iritis. The clinic was full, as it always is, with a wide variety of eye-related traumas and unpronounceable conditions.

At the desk, I was greeted by a cheerful 'Ma Larkin' character who took my history and gave me an eye test. Her spherical colleague asked me if I wanted a cup of coffee while I waited.

After approximately half an hour, a breathless care assistant waddled on to the ward to ask for some supplies. As she came past me I detected the familiar aroma of a recent cigarette wafting from her uniform.

Aren't nurses supposed to set some sort of example, especially if they're giving advice about healthy lifestyles?

I observed the nurses in the clinic and on my way out. Not all staff were overweight - some were worryingly thin - but the ones who were overweight were massively so. You can draw many conclusions about why this is.

For the clinic staff, I doubt that eye-drop instillation rates very highly in recommended calorie-burning activities. Even frontline services such as medical assessment units and A&E contain some 'adiposely challenged' staff who rarely operate at the same speed as everyone else.

When I was a paediatric staff nurse on an acute respiratory ward, one of my colleagues was grossly overweight. Every morning she arrived breathless after walking up the '18 steps' to the ward. Once there, she threw her coat on the chair and fell into it for the rest of the shift. Another large care assistant would plead and cajole her workmates to fetch and carry for her because of 'bad knees'.

There does come a point when work capability has to be brought into the equation, especially if other staff are having to work twice as hard.

Simon Daniels is a mental health rehabilitation nurse at Richmond Fellowship, Stoke-on-Trent

To read more Listen up click on the more by this author link at the top of the page

Click here to read 'How healthy and happy are nurses?'

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