Improving standards of nutritional care on a cancer ward: the development and evaluation of a nutritional care assistant role
Mary Wells1, Fiona Ross2, Jackie Davie3, Thilo Kroll1
1School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, UK; 2Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Torbay Hospital, Torquay, UK; 3Tayside Cancer Centre, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee, Scotland, UK
Purpose: Patients with cancer are particularly at risk of malnutrition and suffer a range of nutritional problems as a consequence of their disease and its treatment. Clinical outcomes may be adversely affected and the normal, pleasurable, and social aspects of eating and drinking are often lost within a busy hospital ward environment. This project aimed at developing and evaluating a role for a nutritional care assistant (NCA) over 22 months to improve standards of nutritional care on a cancer ward, through systematic nutritional assessment, attention to the physical and social factors that promote good nutrition, and the provision of healthy and nutritious snacks.
Patients and methods: Evaluation measures included snapshot audits of nutritional screening, patient questionnaires to assess views of eating and drinking, process audit of the contribution made by the NCA, and staff knowledge and attitude questionnaires. 277 cancer patients were seen by the NCA.
Results: Feedback from patients and staff showed that the project had a positive impact on the provision of food and drink and the experience of patients on the ward. Nutritional screening and documentation also improved.
Conclusion: The findings of this audit demonstrate that simple and innovative changes at ward level can make a tangible difference to standards of nutritional care, and to patients’ experiences of eating and drinking, even in the context of cancer.
Keywords: malnutrition, hospital, environment, nutritional assessment
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