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Opinion

Are overweight nurses ‘fit to practise’?

A recent study highlighted that up to 1 in 4 healthcare workers are overweight with the highest levels of obesity found in nurses and unregistered care workers.

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An influential nurse has questioned if overweight nurses could be in breach of their code of conduct.

WeNurses founder and ‘social media nurse’ Teresa Chinn MBE posed the question of if overweight nurses are fit to practise to her social media followers in a highly debated post titled ‘fit to practice’.

The post highlights that registered nurses should be mindful of their Nursing and Midwifery Council Code of Conduct which states under section 20.9 that nurses should “maintain the level of health you need to carry out your professional role”.

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A recent study highlighted that up to 1 in 4 healthcare workers are overweight with the highest levels of obesity found in nurses and unregistered care workers. The purpose of the study was to look at the link between obesity, musculoskeletal conditions and mental health conditions.

In the post, Ms Chinn reflects on her own struggles, commenting that 12-hour shifts alongside an ever-increasing workload are the primary contributing factors.

One in four.

In a statement to NursingNotes, Ms Chinn said; “It’s a pretty shocking figure that 1 in 4 nurses are obese.  I have struggled with obesity myself and have worked hard to bring myself into the overweight category, I have spent most of last few years this trying to put that, but nevertheless I remain overweight.

“Shift working, not taking breaks, the sheer physical aspect of being on the go for 12 hours, and turning a blind eye to the problem have all contributed to my obsesity.  Since loosing weight I have found that this has had a huge impact on the way I nurse; I can speak after running down a corridor to an emergency, I can kneel down (and get up again) to attend to a patient and I no longer feel exhausted at the end of a 12 hour shift.

“This isn’t about the way we look this is about nurses being fit to nurse, we need to take nurses health seriously and this means at a national level, at a local level and as individual nurses. The fact of the matter is that we don’t have enough nurses so we should take care of the ones we have and support them to be fit and healthy”

Last year “expert hypnotist” Steve Miller said that overweight NHS staff should wear a ‘I’m fat, but I’m losing it’ badge.

Opinion

‘Student nurses graduate with £54k of debt, shouldn’t we pay them a wage instead?’

The Government claims students are “supernumerary” and “not contracted to provide nursing care”.

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Student nurses are the unseen workforce and vital to patient care.

While I am pleased for the thousands of students who will soon be starting their journey to become a registered nurse, it comes with a stark reminder.

In November 2015, ministers announced the NHS Student Bursary and tuition fee payment would be cut in a plan to increase the number of available student places.

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Suffice to say, this hasn’t worked.

Instead, we have seen a consistent decline in the number of student nurses qualifying. Official figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show an overall decline in applications of 8% since 2015.

There is no debate that nurses need to be degree-level educated – but are student loans the best way to fill an ever-widing gap in our workforce?

The unseen workforce.

Student nurses are the unseen workforce and are sometimes vital to the delivery of safe, compassionate, person-centered care.

Completing over two-thousand hours of hand-on, direct clinical practice over three years – is it fair to ask them to accumulate up to £54,582 (plus 6.3% annual interest) of debt?

With a starting salary of £24,214, this is a debt the majority of nurses will never pay off.

The Government claims that because student nurses are “supernumerary” and “not contracted to provide nursing care” they need to be treated like all other higher education students.

While is it true that the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) mandates that student nurses are considered ‘supernumerary’ – how realistic is this expectation? We hear stories of student nurses, trainee nursing associates and healthcare support workers being used to fill nurse staffing gaps on an almost daily basis.

A self-perpetuating cycle.

With an estimated 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies in the NHS alone, health and social care services in England are stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle.

Chronic under-investment in services has led to an increased demand on staff and subsequently affected recruitment and retention rates. Universities then fail to recruit enough nurses to meet the current demand and so the cycle continues.

The Royal College of Nursing has called on the Government to invest at least £1b per year into nursing education and come up with a long-term plan after its plan to increase numbers has failed to work.

Matching the proposed apprentice wage while student nurses are on placement would go some way towards alleviating the financial burden the government has placed on student nurses.

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Opinion

A fresh start?

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RCN Congress

I’m excited and I’m nervous. I qualified as a nurse just 15 months ago. I left a career in IT of “quite a few years” – I decided I needed a fresh start.

Now I’m sat on a train heading to my first ever RCN Congress. I’m a voting delegate and will be honoured to carry that responsibility for my branch.

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I’m also excited to finally be meeting people that I’ve solely (or mostly) only ever connected with online.

Finally, I’m looking forward to the various debates and resolutions. Listening to the speakers will further inform my views and I might even share a thought or two myself – fortunately speaking in public does not generally worry me (I’ll be the one with the ukulele).

A brief glance back to this time last year when certain “irregularities” were noticed by some members around the pay deal and communications regarding it.

The train of events that followed uncovered a number of poor practices regarding transparency and accountability and our current council were elected to address these.

I also mentioned I am nervous.

Recently, it has become clear that further “irregularities” have occurred – and questions will be asked.

Tomorrow morning is the Royal College of Nursing’s Annual General Meeting – an opportunity for members to ask questions. An opportunity for the council to demonstrate its commitment to openness, transparency, and accountability. An opportunity for a fresh start.

I genuinely hope the answers to the questions I raise are clear and dispel the concerns many of us have.

And if they don’t? Well, that’s why I’m nervous.

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