Curbing Nurse Obesity Can Shrink Hospital Costs

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , March 5, 2012

"Some hospitals offer on-site farmer's markets to increase access to healthy food for healthcare workers who work nonstandard hours," Han says. "Healthy vending machine choices and food delivery services to the work unit can also increase food quality and access for nightshift nurses."

Of course, even the best preventive measures will fall short if the healthcare workplace is understaffed, Han concedes. "Sufficient staffing should be employed to provide nurses to decrease their workloads and job stress. However, we all know it's hard to make organizational level changes," she says.

In the end, adequate staffing levels will be the biggest obstacle because of the cost.

However, hospital and healthcare organization leaders who are reluctant to acknowledge or act on the problem of nurse obesity and overweight should remember that this isn't just about "employee wellness." There is more at play than the upfront costs of providing for a healthier workforce. This is also about reducing labor costs and medical errors while improving outcomes.

Healthier nurses mean reduced absenteeism and turnover. They provide better care and make fewer errors, all of which save lives and money.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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