A bariatric nurse is a type of surgical nurse who specializes in the treatment of patients undergoing, or recovering from, bariatric surgery. This type of surgery is generally intended to stimulate weight loss in those suffering from obesity. The procedures usually work by temporarily or permanently altering the stomach's capacity to hold food, or the way in which the digestive tract absorbs nutrients from food. A good bariatric nurse typically has several years of specialized training in those concerns particular to bariatric patients. They are generally able to meet the specific needs of a bariatric patient prior to surgery, and will typically offer counseling and other post-operative services to help the patient adjust to a new way of life.
The typical bariatric nurse must help bariatric patients manage in hospital facilities. These patients often suffer from extreme obesity, and may therefore require highly specialized medical equipment. Stretchers, gurneys, ambulances and other devices designed for use by healthy-weight patients may not be suitable for the bariatric patient's needs. Since specialized equipment can be scarce, these patients are often in danger of succumbing to obesity-related medical complications while waiting to receive care, especially in an emergency situation. One of the bariatric nurse's primary duties can be to help keep patients alive throughout the wait for medical help.
These surgical nurses also typically require strong problem-solving skills, since patient needs can vary widely from one to the next. Organizational, leadership, and planning skills are considered a must, since the average bariatric nurse will have several patients at one time and will need to direct a team of subordinate health care professionals. In addition to years of specialized training in bariatric surgery and the medical care of bariatric patients, a bariatric nurse will also typically need good people skills, not only for dealing with co-workers and subordinates, but for helping patients understand and accept the risks of surgery and make the necessary post-operative lifestyle changes.
Once a patient is recovering from bariatric surgery, the bariatric nurse is typically in charge of educating that patient about healthy lifestyle and nutrition choices. The nurse will often need to provide counseling to the patient regarding emotional and psychological issues related to obesity and weight loss, and may organize therapeutic support groups for patients. Bariatric nurses will typically monitor their patients' progress post-surgery, ensuring that dietary and exercise requirements are followed and protecting against any complications that could arise.