Empowering nurses to improve patient nutrition
Sandra W. Citty PhD, ARNP-BC

November 2011 
Volume 41  Number 11
Pages 51 - 53
  PDF Version Available!

WHEN EMPOWERED nurses recognize barriers to quality nursing care, they take action to promote efficient and safe practice. This article provides an example of nurses becoming empowered and effecting change in a complex healthcare organization to improve nutrition in hospitalized patients.Nutritional support, a nursing priority, is critical to patients' physiological and psychological well- being. Proper nutrition plays a major role in promoting and maintaining health. Lack of adequate nutrition can lead to immune system compromise, impaired wound healing, dehydration, impaired thermoregulation, weakness, depressed mood, and organ system dysfunction.1 Several studies indicate that as many as 40% of adult patients are seriously malnourished when they're admitted to the hospital.2,3Nurses at the front line ensure that their patients maintain good nutrition, but many hospital systems don't allow nurses to effectively and efficiently perform this essential responsibility.1,4,5 For example, barriers such as inadequate licensed and unlicensed staffing patterns, poor quality and choice of food, and disorganized workflow patterns and environments have been identified.In our hospital, we recently embarked on an American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet(R) journey. In this endeavor, the nursing administration established a unit practice council (UPC) for each hospital unit. Each UPC is composed of several staff members (RNs, LPNs, and unlicensed assistive personnel) and unit-embedded clinical nursing faculty from the local university.An evidence-based practice/quality improvement project launched by the UPC sought to determine the best evidence for managing common problems such as treatment of nausea and hypoglycemia. The UPC also studied the factors that inhibit best practices and take nurses away from the bedside to perform non-nursing tasks.At the UPC meetings, nursing staff said that they required access to bulk nourishment items (such as milk, juice, and crackers) between

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