Any person working in the healthcare system should be familiar with the current ethical, legal, and professional frameworks to provide high-quality care. It is also essential to be able to review one’s performance within the team to find ways of improvement. This reflective account will discuss standard 6 of proficiency for operating department practitioners (ODPs) defined by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). A reflective approach will be utilized to examine the standard and evaluate its implementation in clinical practice.
There are several guidelines that healthcare practitioners must follow when working with patients. Standard 6 requires all staff to “be able to practice in a non-discriminatory manner” (Health and Care Professions Council, 2014, p. 8). It is unlawful to discriminate against patients based on their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, weight, marital or parental status as these are protected characteristics (Abbott and Booth, 2014). Thus, ODPs should be aware that all National Health Service patients use a public service and need to be treated equally and impartially.
An incident from my clinical practice can illustrate the standard of non-discriminatory practice not being followed. At the beginning of the shift, the World Health Organization (WHO) surgical safety checklist was read out to prepare the operating team for laparoscopic colectomy surgery. The anesthetist described the patients as obese due to their Body Mass Index (BMI) being between 35 to 40, an index defined as class 2 obesity (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). BMI is a universal screening tool and is calculated by dividing one’s weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). BMI of less than 18.5 is described as the underweight range, whereas an index of 30 or higher is considered the obese spectrum (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). The calculation is objective and is designed to determine whether a patient has weight-related health issues.
The anesthetist’s description can be viewed as somewhat problematic and offensive as they commented on the patient’s body. Staff members from diverse cultural backgrounds may have different outlooks on excessive weight. In some cultures, it is viewed as a sign of prosperity and fertility, while in others, it is portrayed as something undesirable with overweight people experiencing body shaming (Arnold and Boggs, 2011). Fat shaming can substantially impact the mental health and well-being of the patient (Bazian, 2014). It is essential to understand that numerous factors can lead to obesity, including unemployment or a sedentary lifestyle (Bevan and Bajorek, 2019). Therefore, it is imperative for ODPs to remain objective and not voice their views on their clients’ weight.
However, in this case, the anesthetist did not discriminate against the patient as they did not express their personal opinion on their body. According to the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland Society for Obesity and Bariatric Anaesthesia (2015), operating lists must include information about the patient’s weight and BMI. This data is required to prevent any risk associated with the weight, including more substantial intraoperative blood loss, increased operation time and infection. In addition, discrimination can be fair if it is used to highlight the disparity between individuals and address it (UK Quality Care Solutions, 2019). Within the given healthcare settings, the term obese should not be viewed as derogatory as it is used to describe the patient’s actual weight for medical purposes. Overall, no further action is required in this case, as the HCPC non-discriminatory conduct standard was not violated.
In summary, body weight can be viewed differently by members of various cultures. In some societies, being overweight is considered a positive characteristic, while it is believed to be a negative one in others. Nevertheless, within the healthcare settings, medical professionals must treat all patients impartially regardless of their body weight or other legally protected characteristics. In the described instance, the anesthetist was objective in describing the patient as “obese”. The classification was based on the BMI, and local and national guidelines that require this measurement to prevent any risk associated with the surgical procedure were followed.
Abbott, H. and Booth, H. (2014) Foundations for operating department practice. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Arnold, E. and Boggs, K. (2011) Interpersonal relationships: Professional communication skills for nurses. Saunders.
Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland Society for Obesity and Bariatric Anaesthesia (2015) ‘Peri‐operative management of the obese surgical patient 2015’, Anaesthesia, 70(7), pp. 765-891. Web.
Bazian (2014) Fat shaming ‘more damaging than racism’, National Health Service. Web.
Bevan, S. and Bajorek, Z. (2019) Obesity and work: Challenging stigma and discrimination, Institute for Employment Studies. Web.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020) Defining adult overweight and obesity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web.
Health and Care Professions Council (2014) Standards of proficiency: Operating department practitioners. London: Health and Care Professions Council, pp. 1–18. Web.
UK Quality Care Solutions (2019) Promoting anti-discrimination practice. UK Quality Care Solutions Ltd., pp. 1-11. Web.