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Malnutrition in Patients: Causes and Stakeholders

Nursing Issue

Malnutrition in patients occurs when nurses ignore patient needs, or healthcare facilities face a financial burden. Even though this issue is not typical for all hospital settings, it has a crucial influence on people’s well-being. Many patients face the impeded recovery, the effectiveness of their treatment reduces, and they tend to face complications associated with their health conditions. In this way, it can be claimed that malnutrition affects both the quality of provided care and patient outcomes adversely.

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Medical nutrition, according to Tappenden et al. (2013), is to satisfy patients’ physiological needs. Its therapeutic effect is undeniable because it provides essential nutrients and energy. As many nurses fail to understand it, there is a necessity to attract their attention to patients’ nutrition, develop standards for the organization of nutrition, and promote this awareness in patients and their families.

Measures to Support the Issue

Professionals reveal that those patients who experience malnutrition have increased complication rates. In particular, they become more vulnerable to “infections, gastrointestinal perforations, pressure ulcers, anemia and cardiac complications” (Tappenden et al., 2013, p. 1221). In some cases, patients also suffer from pressure sores and deep vein thrombosis. In older populations, malnutrition can also increase the risk of falls. The absence of a protein- and energy-rich diet prolongs in-hospital stay and increases associated costs. In a similar way, it increases the number of readmissions within 30 days. Finally, the most critical issue associated with malnutrition of patients is mortality. Those individuals who do not receive optimized nutrient care become unable to recover. They face numerous complications that lead to death.

In addition to these indicators of malnutrition among patients, healthcare professionals can consider such measures as calorie counts, body weight, and BMI. As well as it is possible to discuss malnutrition, paying attention to the number of clinical complications, length of stay, readmissions, and lethal outcomes, these variables can be counted and compared with appropriate standards.

Stakeholders in Improving the Nursing Issue

Healthcare organizations, such as WHO, should pay attention to the problem of malnutrition because they are responsible for the delivery of the most significant information to healthcare professionals and the representatives of the general public. Discussing this problem, such organizations urge healthcare systems to address malnutrition and minimalize its incidence. They also can contact policymakers and find financial support needed to overcome this issue.

The management of healthcare facilities can develop policies and strategies needed to overcome malnutrition and prevent it in the future. Nurses, in their turn, are the ones to identify patients’ nutrition needs and make sure that they are met. Providing high-quality care, they can also notice if clients have a proper diet and contact authorities if changes are required. Patients are able to report their dissatisfaction with nutrition and urge healthcare professionals to provide them with everything needed. In the same way, families of in-hospital patient can act.

Causes of the Nursing Issue

Malnutrition can be associated with different causes. For instance, de Melo Silva, de Oliveira, Souza, Figueroa, and Santos (2015) managed to reveal that smokers/ex-smokers with low socioeconomic status have more chances to face this issue than other patient population. However, Meehan et al. (2016) believe that hospitals are to be blamed. They indicate that the staff members are too concentrated on hospital routines and do not focus on the development of proper diet for all patients. As a result, they miss mealtimes for treatment procedures, etc. This fact proves that professionals do not receive appropriate education about nutrition care. Additional problems are faced by clients who have disease-related barriers to food intake. Finally, the lack of financial resources can lead to the inability to provide needed nutrition.

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Meehan, A., Loose, C., Bell, J., Partridge, J., Nelson, J., & Goates, S. (2016). Health system quality improvement: Impact of prompt nutrition care on patient outcomes and health care costs. Journal of Nursing Care Quality, 31(3), 217-223.

de Melo Silva, R., de Oliveira, M., Souza, A., Figueroa, J., & Santos, C. (2015). Factors associated with malnutrition in hospitalized cancer patients: A cross-sectional study. Nutrition Journal, 14, 123-138.

Tappenden, K. A., Quatrara, B., Parkhurst, M. L., Malone, A. M., Fanjiang, G., & Ziegler, T. R. (2013). Critical role of nutrition in improving quality of care: An interdisciplinary call to action to address adult hospital malnutrition. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 113(9), 1219-1237.

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