Introduction Malnutrition is common in hospitals, affecting up to 40% of patients.1 Malnourished patients are vulnerable to ill health and are known to be at increased risk of complications during inpatient stays.2 In 1999 Nightingale et al studied healthcare professionals' knowledge of nutrition and despite recognition of its importance, understanding was found to be poor.3 We aim to assess whether there has been any improvement in healthcare professionals' knowledge of nutrition.
Methods We approached healthcare staff from a tertiary referral centre and two district general hospitals to complete questionnaires to evaluate their understanding of assessment and treatment of under nutrition. The questionnaire contained 18 multiple choice questions in which staff were asked to select the correct answer from five possibilities. All questions were constructed from the 2006 NICE guidelines: Nutrition Support in Adults.2
Results We obtained 114 responses from 67 doctors, 10 nurses, 12 pharmacists, 10 dietitians and 15 final year medical students. Dietitians' average score was significantly higher than all other groups (81.7%, p<0.001). Medical students scored lowest (25.4%). Pharmacists averaged 42.6%, doctors 35.8% and nurses 25.4%. There was no statistically significant difference between medical and surgical specialties (36.6% vs 33.6%, p=0.4). Consultants and registrars both averaged 43.8%, SHOs 32.4% and F1s 28.8%. Only 8.9% of doctors felt that they had received adequate nutritional training. 90.0% of nurses and 30.0% of doctors surveyed did not know how to calculate body mass index (BMI). Only 34.8% of doctors could correctly identify the BMI below which one would be considered underweight. 50.0% of doctors did not know an average person's daily fluid requirements. Knowledge of parenteral feeding and the nutritional needs of septic patients was also particularly poor among all health professionals except dietitians.
Conclusion These results suggest that basic understanding of nutrition remains poor. There needs to be greater emphasis on both undergraduate and postgraduate training in nutrition to ensure that recognition and treatment of malnutrition can be improved.
Competing interests None declared.
References 1. Barker L, et al. Hospital malnutrition: prevalence, identification and impact on patients and the healthcare system. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2011;8:514–27.
2. National Collaborating Centre for Acute Care. Nutritional Support in Adults, Oral Nutritional Support, Enteral Tube Feeding and Parenteral Nutrition. London: National Collaborating Centre for Acute Care, 2006.
3. Nightingale J, Reeves J. Knowledge about the assessment and management of undernutrition: a pilot questionnaire in a UK teaching hospital. Clin Nutr 1999;18:23–7.
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.