When patients are hospitalized, good nutrition is essential for their recovery. Proper nourishment helps boost the immune system, promote healing, and prevent complications. Being a nurse, the onus is on you to ensure that patients receive the appropriate nutrition to facilitate their healing process.
In this blog, we will discuss the key role nurses play in promoting good nutrition for hospitalized patients and the strategies they use to support patients in achieving optimal nutrition during their hospital stay.
Importance of Good Nutrition for Hospitalized Patients
Patients may not realize it, but nutrition is an important aspect of their care when they are hospitalized. Adequate nutrition plays a vital role in promoting healing, preventing infections, and improving overall health. Poor nutrition can lead to complications and slow down the recovery process, which can prolong their hospital stay.
This is especially true wherein the cases of malnutrition are high among hospitalized patients, as shown by different studies. Today, malnutrition is highly prevalent among hospitalized patients, with between 20% to 50% of inpatients being affected upon admission, as per a study published in Wiley Online Library. Hospital-acquired malnutrition is an even bigger concern, affecting up to 65% of inpatients.
These figures showcase the critical importance of good nutrition for hospitalized patients, as poor nutrition can lead to longer hospital stays, increased healthcare costs, and a higher risk of mortality.
These figures also call for an urgent need to equip nurses with updated knowledge and proper tools that can help them manage the nutritional needs of patients. However, nurses are trained to assess patients’ nutritional needs, create individualized nutrition plans, and monitor their progress.
Nurses also educate them on proper nutrition habits to maintain after discharge. As a nurse, you may provide them with resources and referrals to community programs to support their long-term nutrition goals. By promoting good nutrition during the hospital stay, nurses can help improve patients’ overall health and reduce the risk of complications.
The Role of Nurses in Assessing Nutritional Needs
Assessing the nutritional needs of hospitalized patients is a crucial step in promoting good nutrition. To do this, you need to gather relevant information about your patient’s current nutritional status and identify any factors that may be affecting their nutritional intake.
To assess the nutritional needs of your patients, you can use a variety of methods, including a thorough medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests. You can also use screening tools, including the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (MUST) and the Nutritional Risk Screening (NRS) 2002, to identify patients who are at risk of malnutrition.
You can also assess your patient’s nutritional needs by taking into account any pre-existing medical conditions, dietary preferences, and cultural or religious beliefs. This information can help you create an individualized nutrition plan that meets your patient’s unique needs and promotes their overall health and well-being.
Keeping in mind this aspect, many nursing schools today focus on providing hands-on experience to nurses, typically known as nursing clinical rotations, which are particularly important for those who are pursuing online programs. Nursing clinical rotations are an essential component of nursing education and provide students with hands-on experience in various healthcare settings.
Exposure to different types of nursing clinical rotations helps nursing students develop clinical skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities needed to provide safe and effective patient care.
Clinical rotations that focus on assessing the nutritional needs of patients are particularly valuable for nursing students. For example, a rotation in gastroenterology can provide nursing students with an understanding of the impact of gastrointestinal disorders on nutritional intake. In this rotation, nursing students learn to recognize common gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which can affect the absorption of nutrients from food.
The Wilkes University blog states that finding suitable clinical placements for nurse practitioners can be a laborious and challenging process. It is necessary to carry out extensive research and ask relevant questions to ensure that the clinical site and preceptor are appropriate for your needs. This can involve asking a lot of questions and making sure that the site meets your specific needs.
One of the challenges that you may encounter when searching for clinical placements is finding a site that meets the requirements for your nursing degree. This may involve researching the site’s specific requirements and determining whether they will allow you to assess the nutritional needs of patients.
Another challenge that you may encounter is communication with the site and its staff. Establishing effective communication with the site and the supervising staff is essential. This can involve reaching out to contacts and ensuring that you receive timely responses to your inquiries.
Researching and identifying potential clinical sites can also be a time-consuming task. This can involve identifying sites that are appropriate for your nursing degree requirements and determining whether they have any specific requirements for students.
Strategies for Promoting Healthy Eating In Hospitalized Patients
As a nurse, promoting healthy eating habits in hospitalized patients is crucial for their overall health and well-being. Here are some effective strategies you can employ:
- Educate patients on healthy food choices: You can educate patients on the importance of making healthy food choices and how they can help them in their recovery process. Share the benefits of consuming a balanced diet and encourage them to choose foods that are high in nutrients and low in fat and sugar.
- Involve patients in meal planning: Patients are more likely to comply with dietary recommendations when they have a say in their meal planning. Involve your patients in meal planning and encourage them to select healthy options from the hospital menu.
- Offer small, frequent meals: Offering small and frequent meals to patients can help to prevent feelings of nausea and promote appetite. Encourage patients to eat slowly and enjoy their meals.
- Address barriers to healthy eating: Patients may face various barriers to healthy eating, such as a lack of appetite or difficulty swallowing. As a nurse, you can work with the healthcare team to address these issues and provide appropriate interventions to ensure that your patients receive adequate nutrition.
With the incidences of malnutrition keeps on increasing, especially among older patients, the need to have effective strategies is more important than ever. Nurses can leverage these strategies to bring down the cases of malnutrition while using them as a catalyst for an increased nutritional value.
New studies published in the National Library of Medicine have shown that the prevalence of malnutrition increases in older patients with comorbidities and intensive care needs, affecting up to 90% of this population. The European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN) has released guidelines for the management of malnutrition, which include different intervention strategies to prevent or treat malnutrition.
These strategies encompass general recommendations, screening for malnutrition, supportive intervention, nutritional counseling, food modification, oral food supplements, and enteral and parenteral nutrition. These strategies can be used by nurses to promote healthy eating in hospitalized patients and prevent malnutrition.
The Importance of Collaborating with Other Healthcare Professionals in Improving Patient Nutrition
Collaborating with other healthcare professionals can enhance the nutrition of hospitalized patients. Nurses can collaborate with physicians, dietitians, and other healthcare professionals to create customized nutrition plans for patients.
A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing found that collaboration with dietitians can improve patient nutrition. The study showed that nurses in surgery and internal medicine wards found it easy to consult with dietitians after risk screening through an electronic pathway. Dietitians were accessible to nurses through their frequent presence in the ward. This collaboration can help nurses to better assess and manage the nutritional needs of their patients, and ensure that they receive appropriate care.
When collaborating with other healthcare professionals, you can share your knowledge and expertise on the patient’s condition, including their medical history, medications, and any dietary restrictions. This information can help dietitians and physicians develop nutrition plans that are safe and effective for the patient.
Collaborating with other healthcare professionals can also help identify patients who are at risk of malnutrition and implement preventative measures. For example, a physician may identify a patient with a medical condition that puts them at risk of malnutrition, and work with a dietitian and nurse to develop a nutrition plan that meets the patient’s needs.
Nurses play a valuable role in promoting good nutrition for hospitalized patients. They can assess the nutritional needs of patients, develop strategies for promoting healthy eating, collaborate with other healthcare professionals, and educate patients and their families on nutrition.
By working together with patients and other members of the healthcare team, nurses can ensure that patients receive the proper nutrition they need to heal and recover.