Find out about our nutrition work, say Harlow hospital’s dieticians

Health / Tue 4th Jun 2019 am30 06:28am

Find out about our nutrition work, say Harlow hospital’s dieticians

WHAT does it feel like if you have difficulty swallowing food and drink safely and have to be fed through a tube?

As a health professional, understanding what your patients experience can be really beneficial when you are treating them. So a group of dieticians at The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust (PAHT) will be finding out exactly what it feels like by spending a whole day being fed by just a tube. They hope the experiment will bring attention to this vital aspect of healthcare, as part of Dietitians week (3-7 June).

Starting at 9am on Thursday (6 June) they will have no solid food and will receive all their nutrition using one of the types of tube generally used in hospitals. Nasogastric (NG) tubes are most commonly used in the hospital environment for people that have swallowing difficulties. This can occur in people with stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer.

Dietitians week is an opportunity to widen understanding of the work of dietitians within the healthcare system. The team are keen to emphasise that while they play a huge part in encouraging healthy eating, they also have a key role in ensuring the nutrition of more vulnerable patients, who have to be fed through a tube. This involves assessing correct nutritional components of feeding products for patients with different conditions, but also considering patients’ cultural or personal requirements, for instance in vegans or for religious needs.

The dietician’s responsibility is not only to ensure nutrition while the patient is in hospital, but also in the community. That is also why they want to support patients and families to learn techniques and manage their nutritional care be it oral nutrition or a feeding tube at home.

The team will also be hosting an information and advice stand outside the Alexandra restaurant at the hospital from 11am to 2pm on Thursday. On display will be samples of the feeding products and tubes that are used, as well as materials and information leaflets.

Amy Williams, registered dietitian and lead organiser of dietitians week for PAHT said: “The reason why we felt it was important to trial an NG ourselves is to familiarise ourselves with the feelings that the patient has to go through. It’s very easy to recommend an NG feeding tube for our patients who require nutrition support, but it’s another thing having to go through the process, the feelings of not being able to have oral nutrition which we take advantage of every day, and putting ourselves in our patients’ shoes.

“Dietitians week this year for us is about acknowledging the different types of nutrition support that we can offer our patients and spreading awareness that feeding tubes are used very frequently within the hospital population. So come and see us on 6 June – our team will be there to demonstrate and answer all your questions.”

Susan Fullen, therapy manager at the trust said: “This is a fantastic demonstration of the dedication and commitment of the dietitian team at PAHT in raising awareness of their profession and their diverse role in supporting patients with complex nutritional needs within the hospital and the community”.

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