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Doctor's Visit A Pain For Overweight Women

Overweight women have a message for doctors and nurses: If you want us to feel good about coming to see you, treat us well.

That means having gowns that fit, armless chairs in the waiting room, and a respectful attitude - not a demeaning lecture, eight overweight women report in October's Journal of Advanced Nursing.

Those women live in western Texas, but overweight and obese women elsewhere can probably relate, notes associate professor Emily Merrill, PhD, RN, FNP, of Texas Tech University's School of Nursing in Lubbock, Texas, and assistant professor Jane Grassley, PhD, RN, of the College of Nursing at Texas Women's University in Denton, Texas.

Merrill and Grassley interviewed the women at length about their experiences in the health care system. The women told stories of feeling dismissed by doctors and nurses, of literally not fitting in at doctors' offices, feeling stigmatized for their weight, and yet refusing to give up on their care.

Poor Treatment at Doctors' Offices

Those stories included a woman whose care was delayed as a nurse "was running around the office [saying], 'We need a bigger [blood pressure] cuff. She can't fit the other."

Another woman recalled that when she gave birth to her son, she weighed 215 pounds. She said she felt hurt when the doctor told her to "just relax and envision yourself on a beach like a big ol' whale beached."

Then there was the chiropractor who told a 230-pound woman seeking arthritis relief that "all you need to do is lose weight," without taking X-rays or completing the exam. The women also said they felt that they weren't believed when they said they had tried to lose weight.

It's not that all doctors and nurses were unwelcoming. In general, the women felt comfortable with their primary care doctors, but several said they dreaded going to see specialists for the first time.

The women indicated that they wouldn't give up on getting medical care. But other overweight women may not be so persistent in the face of discouraging experiences, according to the report.

Merrill and Grassley urge nurses to "use their influence ... to provide appropriate space, furniture, equipment, and supplies including examination gowns, blood pressure cuffs, examination tables, and adequate scales for weighing," and to understand how overweight women may feel about how they're treated.
By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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