Nurturing Nutritional Needs

About one in two patients who enter critical care units have signs of malnutrition, and another 30% of those patients will develop malnutrition during their stay. Providing adequate nutritional therapy to patients is crucial to ensure proper healing.

Risk factors associated with malnutrition include higher rates of infection, pressure injuries and a breakdown of lean muscle mass, ultimately leaving patients weak and frail. “Nutrition affects almost every aspect of healthcare, which is why it is so important that patients are fed appropriately while they are in our care,” says Janice M. Powers, director of nursing research and professional practice, Parkview Healthcare in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Proper nutrition should be administered within the first 24 hours of the patient’s arrival at the hospital. “The guidelines say 24-48 hours, but we really should push for 24 hours in order to make sure that we can mitigate any adverse events and help prevent future undernutrition while congruently treating possible malnutrition,” Powers says. “Timely initiation and safe delivery are the most important aspects of proper nutritional therapy.” 

Many critically ill patients require enteral feedings to achieve adequate nutrition. Ensuring the patient is receiving the full feeding, along with preventing enteral tube clogging is crucial. It is also important to secure the feeding tube properly so that it is not inadvertently removed, requiring replacement and creating a greater risk of injury for the patient.

Close communication with dietitians allows nurses to make the best decisions about their patients’ nutritional needs. “I consult with the dietitian so that we have multidisciplinary care as far as what formula will work best for each patient,” Powers says. “I think we have to have a collaborative approach with all the disciplines that are providing care for our patients.”

The need for appropriate nutrition is often overlooked, so increasing awareness of the importance of nutritional support is key. Proper nutrition can contribute to positive patient outcomes when administered in a safe and timely manner.

Powers will present the session “Navigating Nutrition” on Tuesday, May 21, from 2:45-3:45 p.m., in room W224C.