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This Malnutrition Awareness Week, a new trial project at Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) is helping orthopaedic patients get the fuel they need to heal.
PAH Director Nutrition and Dietetics Jan Hill said a joint effort by nursing and allied health staff has seen patients at risk of malnutrition being identified and treated earlier.
“For people with malnutrition, previously they were referred to the dietitian and it could be a couple of days before they were seen,” she said.
“What we have now is nursing staff taking immediate action if someone is at risk. They will put them on a high-protein, high-energy diet straight away and encourage and assist them to eat.
“Our staff are really helping patients to see food as medicine and saying to patients that food is part of your recovery.”
PAH Orthopaedic Unit Dietitian-Nutritionist Ann Brown said as part of the digital hospital systems, patients were being screened on admission and weekly during the course of their stay.
“The nurses are doing an outstanding job of identifying patients at risk of malnutrition quickly,” she said.
“Our digital hospital systems automatic referrals are sent to the dietitians for those who need highly individualised assessment, therapy and monitoring.”
Ms Brown said the trial also involved educating staff about malnutrition prevalence, and how they could support patients to eat.
“Malnutrition is estimated to affect more than a third of patients in Australian hospitals, but for orthopaedic patients it can severely impact their healing process,” she said.
“Because they are healing wounds as well as bones our patients need a lot of nutrition and everyone is working together to make sure our patients get that fuel.
“Nursing staff help with setting up meals, they help with eating, and they’ll make sure that if a patient is at an appointment the food will still be there when they get back. “
The Systematised Interdisciplinary Malnutrition Program Implementation and Evaluation (SIMPLE) project is an 18-month trial funded by the Allied Health Professions' Office of Queensland and is being run across six Queensland hospitals.