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Arkansas State University

Gain a Better Understanding of Nutrition

Nutrition is one of the most important contributors to human health. Because nurses often spend a large part of their days treating patients with medications and medical procedures, the role nutrition plays in nursing care is often overlooked. However, if you want to be a competent nurse with excellent patient outcomes, it is critical that you understand nutrition and the ways nutritional problems can contribute to existing health conditions.

The Role of Nutrition in Nursing Care

One of the guiding principles of ethical nursing care is non-maleficence, not doing harm. However, malnutrition is a serious and pervasive problem in many hospital settings. Sadly, patient malnutrition often goes unrecognized, and therefore, untreated. Part of this problem stems from the fact that patients who are bed-ridden or in need of rest are not able to show signs of malnutrition that are evident when a patient is walking around or active. Similarly, many signs of malnutrition such as fatigue, problems with thinking or concentration, sleepiness, and muscle weakness may be explained away as symptoms of the medical condition the patient is fighting.

To make matters worse, malnutrition can hinder patient recovery. To combat this problem, nurses must be knowledgeable about the signs of malnutrition and the interventions necessary to improve a patient’s nutrition. According to a 2013 study, “Early nutrition intervention can reduce complication rates, length of hospital stay, readmission rates, mortality, and cost of care.”

In most cases, “a patient’s nutritional status cannot be judged on appearance alone.” Therefore, nurses must use tools and medical tests to ensure a patient is not suffering from malnutrition. One of the best ways for a nurse to ensure a patient is not or does not become malnourished is to use a nutritional assessment tool. By conducting nutritional assessments as part of the assessment routine for each patient, nurses can significantly diminish instances of malnutrition.

The Role of Nutrition in Preventive Medicine

In addition to affecting patient health and recovery from medical conditions, nutrition plays a major role in preventive medicine. Most patients never seek counseling from a registered dietician or nutritionist, but nearly every American has interacted with a nurse at some point in life. Nurses can have a significant impact on a patient’s future well-being by taking a few moments during a patient consultation to discuss nutrition.

Nutrition affects every function of the human body. Nurses who provide nutrition information to patients can ensure that children are growing to their fullest potential, pregnant mothers are doing everything possible to care for themselves and their in-utero babies, and that each patient has a strong immune system. Nutrition also affects cognitive function and mood, which means that caring for patients’ nutritional needs can actually make them happier and lead to a higher quality of life.

How to Learn About Nutrition

If you are ready to learn more about nutrition, consider taking NRS 2203 Basic Human Nutrition at Arkansas State University. This information-packed nutrition course is a co-requisite core class and is part of the online RN to BSN program for registered nurses who want to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. In this online course, you will learn about how nutrition fuels the body, how nutritional habits affect health conditions, and how specific factors such as age or pregnancy can dramatically change a patient’s nutritional needs.

Nurses are required to care for the whole patient. This frequently means providing education and emotional support. Nutrition is a key component of effective patient care that all nurses should implement. Boost your nutrition knowledge and see how incorporating nutrition care into your nursing practice benefits your patients.

Learn more about the Arkansas State online RN to BSN program.


Nursing Times: The Nurse’s Role in Patient Nutrition and Hydration

Lippincott Nursing Center: Nursing’s Role in Nutrition

Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Critical Role of Nutrition in Improving Quality of Care: An Interdisciplinary Call to Action to Address Adult Hospital Malnutrition

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