At UF Health, health care providers are urged to check preconceptions and treat all patients with dignity and respect. Gwen Crispell, M.S.N., R.N., C.B.N., the metabolic and bariatric nurse coordinator for the UF Health Weight Loss Surgery Center, encourages health care providers to acknowledge their own bias.
“A lot of people think they don’t have a bias,” she said, “but a lot of our conversations are judgmental. You can say ‘The sky is pretty,’ and you’re making a judgment.”
Negativity about weight can be expressed unintentionally through insensitive language, Crispell said. A research study confirms the power of language, especially “Bad words” (the title of the research abstract), in caring for patients in the field of obesity.
Crispell uses this research to guide obesity sensitivity training among faculty and staff. She has learned from patients whose first-hand experiences confirm they are treated with greater respect and positive attention following successful weight-loss surgery when their body mass index, or BMI, is reduced to a healthy range.
She compares this to other visual cues that trigger stigma behaviors.
“When I have my white lab coat on, I’m treated differently. I’m the same person — I’m not any less intelligent — but people treat me differently,” she said. “It’s the same with losing weight.”