A plus size patient’s journey at the hospital

Plus size patients prefer healthcare workers to address, rather than ignore, their weight.


INTERVIEW WITH TRACEY: One patient's interactions at the hospital

According to the World Health Organisation, the figures for obesity within the world's adult population have almost doubled since 1980, with 650 million people recorded as obese in 2016¹.

As the number of overweight people continues to rise, so does the pressure on hospitals and healthcare workers to address the issue, both practically and psychologically.

In addition to the very real need to install suitable bariatric equipment such as bariatric hospital beds that can handle the extra patient load, there is also an essential requirement to address the psychological issues that arise for plus size patients receiving treatment within a healthcare setting. 

Everyday tasks such as visiting the toilet or getting in and out of bed can present difficulties for heavier patients, especially if their usual levels of agility are debilitated by illness or the effects of surgery. Providing bariatric lifting equipment can make transfers safe and comfortable for both patient and caregiver. 

Plus size patients may worry about whether their shape or size may inconvenience staff and other patients, or lead to delays or equipment failure. This can make a healthcare facility stay extra stressful for overweight people, unless they are given some reassurance as to how potential problems can be overcome in a dignified and respectful way.

Studies have also found that plus size patients reported encountering prejudice from staff and workers in healthcare settings with regards to their size2. Not only does this potentially affect mental health, but it can cause patients to delay seeking healthcare. 

Potential Remedies

Consult with the patient about any potential problems – Increased training on more empathetic and respectful patient interaction can go a long way towards providing better levels of care and psychological support to plus size patients in a pragmatic and non-judgemental way.

Check with patients in advance of a hospital visit to see if they need any assistance or special equipment – Clinics and healthcare staff can make the whole medical experience much less unnerving for plus sized patients and potentially avoid many of the access problems created by their wider frames and limited mobility if they acknowledge the need for such apparatus and provide for it, as they would for any other form of disability.

Keeping quiet, then, is definitely not an option! Not only does it create barriers to good care but it can also potentially affect the safety and wellbeing of overweight patients when receiving medical treatment.

If you need to build or adapt your healthcare facility to cater for these demographic changes, you can download the bariatric chapter of the Arjo Guidebook for Architects and Planners.


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[1] World Health Organisation  https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight

[2] British Psychological Society, Professional Practice Board, Obesity in the UK: A psychological perspective (2011), http://www.bps.org.uk/sites/default/files/images/pat_rep95_obesity_web.pdf