By Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN
Senior vice president and chief nurse executive
For many patients and for many reasons, particularly in the elderly, eating to live rather than living to eat often is the case. As nurses, we know that poor nutritional status can be the cause and the result of illness.
Physiologic changes anywhere from the mouth to the intestines can create digestion or absorption problems leading to weight loss, dehydration, malnourishment and metabolic imbalances.
Because they’re with patients more than other groups, nurses are in an ideal position to recognize nutrition problems. As caregivers, they provide surveillance and intervention; as teachers, they educate. They know that normally well-nourished patients who have interruptions in diet because of illness, testing or surgery can experience deterioration in their nutritional status. They work to decrease these interruptions through communication with dietitians, nutritionists and the interprofessional team. Nurses also work on patients’ emotional and social changes that might contribute to eating problems.
Information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates more dietitians and nutritionists will be needed during the next decade to provide the care patients will require. In the meantime, nurses will continue to feed their patients with the nutrition information for which they are hungry.
For more information on nutrition, visit Nurse.com/Nutrition