Sutter Roseville Medical Center Provides Bariatric Sensitivity
ROSEVILLE, Calif., June 17, 2009 - Kim Cole, RN, CNS, bariatric clinical nurse coordinator and a certified bariatric nurse, has seen many changes in the care for obese patients since the inception of Sutter Roseville Medical Center’s Bariatric program in 2000. One of the major changes she has seen is the transformation of from looking only at an obese patient’s clinical needs to embracing sensitivity to their emotional comfort level and physical needs as well.
"We learned that patients of size are apprehensive in new situations," said Cole. "They are constantly alert to see if they can fit through the doorway, if a chair or gurney will hold their weight or if a hospital gown will fully cover them."
Cole says obese patients often choose to forgo medical treatment based on their fears of not being able to successfully utilize hospital furniture and equipment and on not being treated with respect or sensitivity around others in regards to their feelings or size.
"Unfortunately, discrimination and mistreatment of persons with obesity is widespread and socially acceptable," said Cole. "It’s the last acceptable bias in America in which we allow awful cartoons, programs, news stories and bad conduct around people of size."
With that in mind, Cole assisted in establishing the Bariatric Sensitivity Program that educates and prepares hospital staff to provide care more sensitively. For instance, staff learns to talk compassionately around obese patients. A transporter, who moves the patient on the gurney to surgery or radiology, learns that it’s not okay to say to fellow co-workers, "we’ve got a big one to move." Technicians who need to know the patient’s weight ask the patient within the confines of the hospital room and not in the radiology department waiting area or in front of other staff and personnel. Nursing staff learn that unconsciously they do not tend to comfort obese patients by touch and that a pat on the arm of a squeeze of the hand to a patient of size really means a lot.
In addition, Cole makes sure Sutter Roseville Medical Center provides bariatric furniture and equipment throughout the hospital. Step into any waiting area, cafeteria, admissions area or registration and there are benches without arms, bariatric chairs and bariatric wheelchairs in place or readily available. In addition, hospital rooms provide appropriate-sized gowns, larger beds, floor-mounted toilets, large shower stalls with 500-pound weight capacity shower benches and patient lift assisting devices.
Obesity is a disease and Cole teaches staff the need to assess their negative thoughts or feelings about the hospital’s obese patients and change their behavior. "It’s very rewarding changing a person’s negative thoughts or behavior into positive actions," said Cole about her program. "Our patients don’t choose to be obese, they have a complex disease. We have to treat their disease and at the same time promote human dignity through compassion and respect."