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In this lesson we’re going to take a look at body image and how it impacts our patients.
Everybody has general understanding of what body image is, but I just want to clarify it for our purposes. When we’re talking about our patients what we’re talking about is how a patient perceives themselves in terms of their looks and the way that they see themselves aesthetically or even their sexual attractiveness.
We also need to be aware at that body image looks different for different cultures, because they may have different understanding of beauty and health, and those things influence their perception of body image
One thing that is going to be really important to know is that the closer that a patient is in relation to their ideal body image, the more positive their body image perception is. You also need to be mindful that just because your patient has a “positive body image” it may actually not be a healthy body image, so that’s what we’re going to talk about when discuss goals a little bit later in this lesson.
Also keep in mind that body image is related to sexuality, femininity, masculinity, youthfulness, health, and strength.
So let’s take a look at how this impacts our patient.
As our patients age from children to adults, they’re going to hit puberty. And we need to be aware and consider all of the things that are going to impact their perception of body image. So when secondary sex characteristics kick in, that’s really going to change how they perceive their own bodies. It starts around age 10 to 11, and it’s not only going to be their changing bodies that impact their cognitive development and their perception of body image but they’re also going to start paying attention to society. There are pressures from society to look a certain way. There may be pressures to be a certain height, or certain weight, or have a certain muscle mass. So just be aware that some of the influences from society are positive, and some are negative.
The other thing that’s going to impact your patient are their role models. If you have an adolescent patient, and you have the parents that are really involved, they’re great role models, and they have a really good perception of body image, you can expect your patient to have similar goals for their own body image. Likewise if you have people that are negative role models or your patients are looking to the wrong role model for their perception of what is aesthetically pleasing or is attractive, these things can negatively impact your patient and how they perceive their own body image.
Not only that, it can cause some long-term imprinting, meaning that your patient will have these perceptions of their own body image for a long time. So establishing positive body image perception early on leads to long-term positive outcomes for your patient, both of their body image and their health.
When we talk about intrinsic components, these are the things that the patient will do to make themselves feel better because it gives them confidence or it gives them a sense of pride. These are their personal goals. As they start to achieve personal goals, like with fitness, they may start to have more positive body image. Also in terms of health and wellness, if you have a patient who has a goal of being a healthy weight, also with the recommendation of physicians or other medical professionals, that is an intrinsic component.
On the other hand, we have extrinsic components. These are things that come from the outside of the patient, so things like pressures from society. These could be things that they see on TV, or movies, or pressure from their friends. If their friends shop at a certain store, they may have the pressure to shop at the same store, so that they can fit in and they may feel the need to conform with them. You can also have influence from a family or medical professionals that encourage positive body image..
There are also some other major influential factors in terms of body image.
Pregnancy is a daunting undertaking to begin with, not to mention all of the body changes that accompany it. Our pregnant patients are going to go through some major changes, and it’s really going to alter their bodies, so we need to be mindful of how they perceive themselves. Not only during the pregnancy but also after.
Surgery is also another important factor we have to consider. Sometimes things like amputations or surgeries like ostomies can really change how patient views their own body image.
Another thing you need to consider is injury. Burns, scars, trauma, these things all influence how patient for sees themselves, because these things can permanently alter their appearance. Disease processes like arthritis and eating disorders can also influence how about a changes, and also the perception of how the patient views their own body.
So let’s talk about what you can do as the nurse to help your patient with their perception of body image.
Right out of the gate, you need to evaluate the needs for your patient. Make sure we’re prioritizing and meeting all of their physiological needs first, but then think about what does the patient need in terms of making their body image more positive.
The other thing you want to keep in mind is that you need to go back to that therapeutic communication. If you have not checked out that lesson please go do so. You can empathize with your patient, you can be there for them, and you can help them through whatever difficulties are having so that they can have better body image perception.
Lastly be sure to educate your patient on what their needs are. If they need education on stoma care, then go ahead and help them out with that. Make sure that you identify the patient’s goals, and that your patient up for success to meet those goals by educating them.
For this lesson are nursing concepts really focus on health promotion, cognition, and human development, because all of these things are really influenced by our patients perception of body image.
Okay so let’s recap.
Remember, everybody’s perception of body image can look a little bit different, and it’s different depending on the culture.
You can have a lot of influence when it comes to your patients perception of body image and they can be internal or external influences.
Puberty plays a big role in development, and also how our patients see their own bodies. So be aware of that when you’re caring for your patients.
Also other things like a pregnancy, surgeries, scars, diseases… they all impact how our patients see themselves.
Remember your impact as a nurse. You need to evaluate your patient for their needs, communicate therapeutically, and be sure to educate them and provide the necessary resources for them.
And that’s it for this lesson. Make sure you check out all the resources attached to this lesson. Now, go out and be your best selves today. And, as always, happy nursing!!