How Do I Become a Bariatric Nurse?

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  • Written By: Kenneth W. Michael Wills
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2019
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Bariatric nurses focus their careers on caring for obese patients in bariatric surgical settings. Students seeking to become a bariatric nurse will need to follow the same academic and licensing path as any other entry-level nurse. After gaining experience caring for obese patients, a registered nurse can sit for certification to become a certified bariatric nurse. Upon gaining certification, a registered nurse can then specialize in bariatric nursing and make it his or her career through continuing education and re-certification. Nurses working in bariactric surgery can expect to work with patients both before and after surgery to assist medical doctors in caring for morbidly obese patients.

The first step to become a bariatric nurse is to attend nursing school. This usually consists of either attending an associate's or a bachelor's degree program in nursing. Both options should allow you to earn the associate's degree after the first two years of school. Upon successfully completing the associate's program in nursing, students are eligible to sit for the licensing exam in most states to seek the required license for registered nursing practice.


Licensing exams in most states are administered by the state board of nursing. Graduating students will need to contact the respective licensing board in their state for information about the application procedures as well as what to expect on the exam. Once a student passes the exam and all the required background checks, he or she then receives a license as a registered nurse. This licensure, however, is only another step toward becoming a bariatric nurse.

Specializing as a bariatric nurse will require you to seek certification from the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery. In order to become eligible to register and sit for the exam, in addition to a current license as a registered nurse, candidates also need at least two years experience working with morbidly obese patients, preferably in a surgical setting. After graduation and licensure, nurses seeking to become a bariatric nurse should immediately begin looking for work opportunities to gain such experience.

Current licensure as a registered nurse and two years experience caring for morbidly obese patients will allow those wanting to become a bariatric nurse, to sit for the bariatric nursing exam. Successfully passing the exam will earn a nurse the credential of Certified Bariatric Nurse (CBN). With this certification, you can then choose to specialize in the field and focus on job opportunities working with the morbidly obese. Re-certification is a requirement every four years to keep the CBN title. Also, nurses must demonstrate continuing education units before becoming eligible to sit for the re-certification exam.


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