The World Health Organization estimates that there are one billion people worldwide who are overweight. Of those one billion people, 300 million meet the criteria of obese.
As the incidence of morbid obesity increases so, too, does the quantity of weight loss surgeries performed. Bariatric surgery is now an accepted methodology for weight loss as well the co-morbidities of obesity. As is the case in numerous areas of the medical professions, quality nursing care is an intricate and important asset for favorable patient outcomes.
Special Needs of the Bariatric Patient
Bariatric patients present special challenges for a healthcare community dedicated to patient safety and dignity. Because of their size, a number of bariatric patients require help with the simple tasks of daily living. The greater the amount of help required by the patient, the greater the risk for injury to those healthcare professionals who provide that help.
The frequency of co-morbidities among barbaric patients makes them good candidates for complications when in the hospital. Bariatric patient are more susceptible to cardiac disease, hypertension, diabetes, and sleep apnea.
Bariatric patients also often have skin conditions. Because of increased skin folds and generally larger body parts, weight loss patients often have difficulty with self-care tasks such as hygiene and toileting.
Bariatric patients also can experience problems with general mobility, and nurses are often required to provide assistance.
Responsibilities of the Bariatric Nurse
Nurses are active participants in the full process from selection for surgery to follow-up visits after discharge.
During the selection process, the nurse can explain the medical tests as well as the reasons for those tests. She is also a conduit to the doctor, relaying pertinent information about the patient to the doctor.
Nurses will help patients prepare for the changes in diet, body image, and interpersonal relationships by providing useful and appropriate referral services. The nurse should also follow up to see if the family is using the services that are available.
Nurses should provide written information and demonstrations for aftercare regarding drinking and eating, self-care and awareness of presenting symptoms that indicate a need for medical attention. A call number should also be provided to the patient upon discharge to use if she has any questions after returning home.
Ideally, follow-up calls should be made to the patient as well as the patient’s family to assess the welfare of the patient following discharge or to help address any complications that may occur.
Risks for Bariatric Nurses
Nurses are at risk for injury when caring for bariatric patients.
Repositioning of weight loss patients as well general assistance with daily activities put the bariatric nurse at risk for injury. Many of the nursing activities that are required to service the weight loss patient go beyond safe
working-loads and can result in musculoskeletal injuries, strains, sprains, and excess spinal loading.