Choosing a Career as a Certified Bariatric Nurse

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One of the great things about choosing nursing as a profession, is all the opportunities it provides. There are dozens of specialties nurses may choose from including bariatric nursing.

Bariatric nurses care for patients who are being treated for obesity and related complications.  Nurses work closely with doctors to develop a weight loss treatment plan. In some cases, surgery may be recommended to promote weight loss. There are different procedure, such as gastric bypass, which alters the size of the stomach, so a person eats less.

Helping staff in the OR in Tanzania. The Responsibilities of a Bariatric Nurse

Nurses who care for patients being treated for obesity have varied responsibilities. They may meet with patients and assess their condition, monitor vital signs and take medical histories. Bariatric nurses also often counsel patients on healthy eating habits and educate them on treatment options.

If a patient decides on weight loss surgery, nurses may explain the procedure and answer any questions. After surgery, bariatric nurses will educate patients on the lifestyle changes they need to make and provide information regarding nutrition and food choices.

In many cases, bariatric nurses will continue to monitor patients after they leave the hospital and as they are recovering. At each doctor’s visit, nurses will weigh the patient, discuss concerns and troubleshoot any problems the patient may be having.

Training and Qualifications to Become a Bariatric Nurse

Bariatric nurses are registered nurses who have graduated from an accredited RN program. Either two-year or four-year nursing programs are acceptable. After graduation, nurses must pass the NCLEX, which is the licensing exam.

Students who are interested in bariatric nursing can prepare for the profession while still in high school by taking certain classes. Classes in psychology, anatomy and nutrition will be helpful.

After becoming licensed to work as an RN, nurses are ready to start their job search.  Bariatric nurses are employed by medical facilities and doctors offices. Weight loss clinics may also hire bariatric nurses. Although some healthcare facilities may prefer to hire nurses with patient care experience, others may hire new graduates to work in this specialty.

Once a nurse has worked with bariatric patients for a certain amount of time, they may want to consider becoming certified as a Certified Bariatric Nurse. The certification is available through the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.  Eligibility for certification includes 24 months of experience caring for bariatric patients. 

Traits Bariatric Nurses Need

Nurses who care for bariatric patients should process some of the following traits:

  • Patience: Patients may have a lot of questions and sometimes may ask the same things over again. Nurses need to take their time and answer questions thoroughly.
  • Compassion: Obesity can be a lifelong problem for some people. Nurses need to be compassionate and non-judgmental. A caring attitude is a must when dealing with bariatric patients.
  • Good Communications Skills: A large part of the job for bariatric nurses is educating patients on their treatment, proper nutrition and lifestyle changes. Strong communication skills are needed. 
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