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A follow-up to the issue of hospitals refusing to hire obese employees

Ryan McVay | Photodisc | Thinkstock

In a recent article, we reported that a hospital in Texas is refusing to hire anyone with a body mass index over 35. We knew the issue would be polarizing, but couldn’t foresee the huge influx of responses from our Facebook fans when we asked whether or not the policy was discriminatory. Read their honest, thoughtful answers below and tell us: What do you think?

It’s the right move for facilities
I didn’t consider the aspect of “we look healthy, you should also.” For me, an obese employee in a patient care area may not be able to physically handle the repeated stresses on the body, and is at a higher risk for injury.
—Doug MacLeod

If hospitals refusing to hire smokers isn’t discriminatory, then neither is this. Both are huge health risks and cost a lot of money in healthcare benefits.
—Eva Kumor Zakrzewski

Anyone or any company should be able to hire whoever they want. They should not have to fill politically correct quotas. No matter how someone got fat, it’s unhealthy to be fat and they are more likely to have multiple health problems keeping them out of work.
—Suzan Johnson Bargen

I think this all ties back into incentives. I’m sorry, but being overweight in the healthcare setting, just like smoking, discredits the nurse. We are supposed to be role models for our patients, not reasons for noncompliance. I may not personally struggle with my weight, but I also make a point to exercise three to five times a week and eat reasonably. It goes back to the old adage “If you cannot take care of yourself, how can you care for your patient?” I have an obese mother who I’ve watched struggle for years with yo-yo diets, so I am not un-empathetic. But I’m a firm believer in exercise and correct eating habits. I have a nursing friend who is overweight and she is losing weight CORRECTLY by doing Weight Watchers. I recently read a research article that says 76 percent of nurses don’t address an obese person’s weight while they are under that nurse’s care, thin and overweight nurses alike! What a discredit we are doing our patients by not addressing a health issue that balloons into so many other problems, like diabetes and heart disease.
—Tonya Sue Dietz

It’s discriminatory
If the true goal is to make changes in peoples’ lives, they should implement weight loss/fitness and smoking cessation programs and incentives. Better than beating people down by discrimination! That worsens the problem in so many ways. Aren’t we all judged enough in so many other aspects of our profession?
—Anna Baumann Alexander

I think they should only hire people who eat fruits and vegetables every day, wear their seatbelts, get their yearly physicals, brush their teeth two times a day, floss every day, do 30 minutes of cardio four times a week, read journal articles and volunteer.
—Tiffany Tomkowitz

There are a few comments here that suggest an overweight employee can’t do the work. I’m an overweight nurse and I do my job just fine. I struggle with weight; however, I am working on it. I find this idea offensive and I doubt it would be effective in changing the health of patients. Perhaps encouraging the wellness of employees through health programs and incentives is a better path, as my institution does. As for patients, maybe an overweight nurse who eats right, is doing things to improve his or her weight, is fully capable of performing the job’s duties and can speak from personal experience is a resource this idea overlooks. As an overweight person, I know I prefer health tips from previously obese people rather than someone who has never struggled with weight to begin with. What I see as unsupportive is the multitude of candy and baked goods readily available at the nurse’s station on a daily basis.
—Shannon Hoffman

This is getting ridiculous. So will they quit hiring near-sighted nurses? Redheads? Nurses with moles or knock-knees? Give us a break!
—Cyndy Robinson Taylor

Those who are saying that as nurses they need to be good role models for their patients are laughable. Let’s get real about a few things here, mmkay? 1) In the hospital setting, most of the patients are only doing what we advise begrudgingly in the first place in the hopes that they might get discharged a bit quicker. 2) This policy is driven by only one or two real issues—it is a way to keep their ballooning insurance rates down and/or an attempt to perpetuate the fallacy that the cute little nurse is there just waiting for someone (like them) to play grabass with. Disgusting! I am in no way overweight, but I wouldn’t work for a hospital like this for all the money in the world. If they were to suddenly lose all of their nurses and had to hire nothing but agency nurses, they would soon change their tune, as there would be no economic benefit to them all of a sudden…hrmm?
—Carl Dorrance

The problem on everyone’s mind
Good provocative question. This needs to be considered as we consider a new paradigm to replace the “dead horse” we are still beating: trying to make an unsustainable healthcare system work, because we cannot quit.
—Susan Yeaton Butler

What do you think about the issue?

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8 Responses to A follow-up to the issue of hospitals refusing to hire obese employees

  1. Pingback: A follow-up to the issue of hospitals refusing to hire obese … – Horse Health Questions

  2. Nurse Rene RN

    This whole issue is about Discrimination, pure and simple. While I have never smoked I DO support the rights of others to CHOOSE to do so as long as it is not against the law and does not infringe upon the rights of those nearby. All of the hospitals which are making these hiring/firing decisions receive Federal Funding in the form of Medicare dollars. Therefore, in MY PERSONAL VIEW, they are subject to the same Federal non-discrimination laws as any other public facility. The fact that they have ‘been getting away with it’ is a reflection of the depressed economy coupled with the lack of desire for employees, unions, whatever to pursue the issue in Court. Already nurses across the country ‘know’ that age discrimination is being practiced, covertly, by Human Resources personnel. However, nothing will be done about any of this until someone brings a lawsuit in Federal court. You can bet that if this were a Racial issue it would never have gone this far!

  3. Darlene RN

    There are discriminating issues in Nursing, and this Obesity issue is just one more. Does this Hospital offer a Healthy Choice Benefit Plan to their employees? Is that why all their Nurses are fit and trim? Does that include Administration that sit a lot and have meetings after meetings-which I am Sure includes Food-some with excess calories. Come On People…Let’s Focus on the Real Issues of Most Texas Hospitals…Under Paid Nurses that Cannot even afford to join a Health Training Facility like Weight Watchers or Others. Who would pay for it? The average pay of Texas Nurses CANNOT AFFORD IT!!! You people are only worried about the Dollar signs$$$$ and what more incentive can put more money into your pockets for end of the year Bonus Wars…On Who Saved the Big Wigs the Most Money this Year…Then all is happy Right? STRIKE…NO!!! BECAUSE NURSES OF ALL SIZES ARE STILL UNDER APPRECIATED, UNDER RESPECTED, AND UNDER PAID-AND THAT IS THE ONLY DISCRIMINATION I AM CONCERNED ABOUT!!! NOW WHO IS THE PIG???? REAL TALK!!!

  4. mamajo RN

    So if I am old, overweight and smoke but have tons of experience and CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS I should not be hired, but if I am a thin, non-smoking young nurse without a lick of critical thinking skills I should be hired. Hmmmm, I know who I would want taking care of me!

  5. SJRN RN

    Following their logic, they should refuse to hire RNs who use tanning beds, drive motorcycles, binge drinks (consumes 4 or more drinks on one occasion), engage in sports that have a high potential for injury, don’t wear helmets when they ride a bicycle, don’t use sunscreen regularly, etc. The list of “risky behaviours” that people engage in on a daily basis is endless and to pick one as a criterion to not hire someone is discrimination in my books.

  6. Darlene RN

    Hi MAMAJO,
    HANDS DOWN…I WOULD BY FAR ASK YOU TO BE MY NURSE!!!

  7. chasaty379

    I agree with the other poster who mentioned that the skinny nurse who looks good in her scrubs but has nothing in her head often gets hired and kills the patient with chronic med errors.

    Give me the fat nurse who has a brain!

    Disclaimer: I am in no way saying that all skinny nurses are idiots. I am only referring to the skinny nurses who actually are idiots and the nursing students who made it into nursing school because mommy/daddy owns the bank.

  8. LonaRN RN

    Wow. Really, I don’t know about your nursing school, but mine taught us not to be judgmental. First off If they start implementing this throughout our health care systems, they will be loosing some awesome nurses. My weight does not determine how I do my job. To assume that all “fat” people are lazy and not good role models is an ignorant assumption. I am overweight, I eat what my dietitian tells me to eat and do zumba 4 times weekly, not to mention working full time, being a mom, a wife and helping to run a family business. I am losing weight but it is slow going, but I can do my job and do it well. I work circles around a few of my thin co-workers and live a healthier lifestyle. While I am eating my carrot sticks and celery, they are downing Mt. Dew and shoving junk food down their throat. It is discriminatory, rude, and wrong, period!

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