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May 08 2013
Nurses Can Play a Key Role in Creating Better Nutrition Practices in their Hospitals
Beth Quatrara, DNP, RN, CMSRN, ACNS-BC

As a nurse, I know I am in a position to provide better nutritional care that will improve my patient’s outcomes. I have seen firsthand the devastating effect that malnutrition can have on patients’ health. It can delay recovery, increase complications and extend length of stay1. These outcomes are preventable through early nutritional intervention.

Every clinician who touches the patient plays a role in delivering nutritional care. All clinicians need to know the hidden signs of malnutrition and what they can do to improve outcomes. As a Steering Committee member of the Alliance to Advance Patient Nutrition, I am working with my colleagues across the continuum of care to implement better nutrition practices. We must share the research and information we have, capitalize on best practices and create interdisciplinary teams to elevate the role of nutrition in the hospital.

As a clinical nurse specialist at the University of Virginia Health System, I have the opportunity to work with skilled dietitians on a regular basis. I know that when we work collaboratively, we can make better nutrition a top priority. The fact that more than 1 in 3 patients enters the hospital malnourished must be addressed.2-4 With better clinical collaboration and education, we can improve that statistic.

As nurses, we have the most direct interaction with our patients. We want to help our patients get well sooner and get home to their families. To do this, we need to have the best tools and resources at our fingertips. This includes knowing everything we can about the best practices in nutrition care. The Joint Commission mandates that all patients are screened upon admission, but this practice may not be enough. A simple approach to screening patients throughout their hospital stay must be established at every hospital so that we can lower these frightening statistics and get patients home sooner—and armed with what they need to know to maintain their nutritional status. All clinicians can learn from one another. Together, we can make sure that prescriptive nutrition goes from hospital admission to continued recovery at home.

One goal of the Alliance is to facilitate greater collaboration among clinicians and to start conversations about improving nutrition policies and programs. You can start right now. Reach out to the dietitian on your unit or a hospital administrator you work with. There are many opportunities to raise awareness about the significance of better patient nutrition and engage every clinician in the effort to eliminate hospital malnutrition. Take advantage of the resources that the Alliance has available on this site (—and share them with your colleagues. Together, we can bring nutrition to the forefront of patient care and improve key outcomes across the board.

1Norman K et al. Clin Nutr. 2008; 27: 5-15.
2Coats KG et al.. J Am Diet Assoc 1993; 93: 27-33.
3Giner M et al. Nutrition 1996; 12: 23-29.
4Thomas DR et al.Am J Clin Nutr 2002; 75: 308-313.