Vulnerability comes in different shapes and forms. It applies to different settings and also populations. Vulnerability has two categories; individualize that means a person is vulnerable within a context. The other is a group, because of susceptibility to external or internal factors directly related to a population despite what is occurring with other people or groups (De Chesney, P. 3 2012). Here the focus is on a vulnerable population of obese patients. The article speaks about how health care providers can have stigmatizing attitudes toward obese patients (Malterud & Ulriksen, 2011,p. 1). Highlighted factors focus on the barriers the obese population encounters by providers who have made prejudgments on the patients, how it affects the outcome of the care of the patients and what effects it has for their road to recovery.
A vulnerable population according to De Chesney (2012) is defined as a group of people at risk of poor physical, psychological or social health. Vulnerability by virtue in status. A group of people who are at risk at any given point relative to another individual or group (p. 4). The obese patients are the vulnerable population because of their genetic predispositions and life circumstances. They are not categorized by their cultural vulnerability but rather due to this similar physical nature.
In the article the obese patients faced many barriers, which prevented them from obtaining the resources need. Many of them were viewed as patients who did not take responsibility for their eating habits or did not have the motivation and will power to succeed in their predisposition. Providers view them as the main cause for the obesity and non-improvement. “ A recent review demonstrated that also health care providers endorsed stereotypical assumptions about patients with obesity and attribute obesity to blame” (Malterud & Ulriksen, 2011,p. 1). “The stigmas and prejudgments of the providers and society are seen as exploitation (keeping people down), norm enforcement (keeping people in), and disease avoidance (keeping people away”) (De Chesney, 2011, p. 1). Many of the patients believed their needs were not met as far as caring for their health conditions because many of the doctors were associating every issue, symptoms, or discomfort to their weight.
Also many of the obese patients thought they did not have the equal amount of care, time or consideration as other patients because they were believed to be lazy. However, the study also showed providers supportive of the obese patient also feels a sense of discomfort when caring for him or her. A situation, which showed female nurses who believed fat, was unhealthy, and related to coronary heart disease wanted to enforce the importance of weight loss. Many of them did express they felt uncomfortable to do so in fear of insulting the patient or making him or her feel uncomfortable. They had seen the discussion of weight as a sensitive topic. This made them pass on giving the education (Malterud & Ulriksen, 2011, p. 4).
In experiences during one’s nursing career many situations come to mind when thinking of an obese patient, prejudgment, and stigmas that are related. One can recall a few situations, such as nurses immediately becoming upset because the patient does not fit on the bed. If the patient is admitted the process of calling bed board to bring down a “Big boy bed” to accommodate the large patient seemed to annoy the nurse. Other reasons, such as testing or meeting the needs of comfort for the patient.
What seemed to be out of the ordinary routine for their patient the nurses tended to become annoyed and did not realize the patients are very much aware of his or her feelings and stigma toward them. If an obese patient needs different accommodations it is not his or her fault. Should the blame not be placed on the facility for not providing small things such as large gown, larger stretchers, and easier ways of transportation for the larger patients. Society decided to place a label on a patient who may not have control over his or her size and has enforced it to apply to the country. The only way this problem will improve if it starts with the health care system and providers.
In conclusion the vulnerable population of obese patients need to be cared for by providers who have empathy toward them. It is important to the patients care and does not add stress to an already difficult situation (Malterud & Ulriksen, 2011). They need to support the patients and provide them with other avenues and build on the confidence need to succeed.
The stigmatization needs to end and not incorporate it into the care. According to Malterud and Ulriksen (2011) “Existing research indicates that such attitudes may actually increase the maladaptive eating behaviors, exercise avoidance and in some cases reduce motivation to lose weight.” (p. 10). Therefore, health care professional who have obese patients to care for are the first line of defense to brake the bad habits and stigmas associated with obesity. A provider has to recognize the effort their patients have tried to make in managing their weight issues (Malterud & Ulriksen, 2011).
De Chesney, M. (2012). Caring for the Vulnerable: Perspectives in Nursing Theory, Practice and Research, 3e. Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection database.
Malterud, K., & Ulriksen, K. (2011). Obesity, stigma, and responsibility in health care: A synthesis of qualitative studies. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, 6(4), 1-11. Retrieved from http://www.doaj.org/doaj?func=abstract&id=880959&q1=vulnerable%20patient&f1=all&b1=or&q2=caring%20for%20vulnerable%20ptatients&f2=all&recNo=1&uiLanguage=en