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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