Thursday, August 14, 2008

Nursing and Nutrition – The Knowledge Gaps

Nurses and other health professionals are looked upon as authorities in areas of health, of which nutrition is an important aspect. The food we eat must nourish us and provide us with enough nutrients so that we are not best by illness and ailments. Nutrition thus plays an important role in the case of recovering invalids who are recuperating and regaining their strength. While nourishment is necessary to all people, there are a few areas where it’s more important than others.

· Pediatrics: It’s important for both newborns and children that they are provided with the right nutrients in the right amounts so that they grow up strong and healthy. Breast milk has been proven to have all the nutrients that newborns need and provides them with a strong immune system as they grow into adulthood. Nurses, with the support of pediatricians, must advise lactating mothers on the importance of breast feeding their babies. Research has showed though that most health professionals do not bother to communicate with their patients about the benefits of the right kind of nutrition, either before the baby is born or after. Most nurses are also unaware that they need to provide support and training for first-time mothers as they attempt to breastfeed their babies. They need to be taught to hold the baby comfortably and sit or lie down in positions that are both comfortable and convenient.

· Rural practice: Nurses who practice in a rural setting are often called upon to provide services in a whole range of disciplines. They often act in the capacity of general care giver rather than practice a specialized branch of medicine as their urban counterparts do. People who are isolated from mainstream society need to be educated about the benefits of eating the right food. Nurses are positioned perfectly to provide this education, but with lack of proper training and incentive, they do not often go beyond the call of duty.

· Schools: School nurses are responsible for more than just bandaging the occasional cut and providing the odd vaccine. They must take an active interest in what’s being served at the school cafeteria and encourage the provision of healthy wholesome foods as opposed to fat-filled junk food and salty processed snacks. But with the lackadaisical attitude of school authorities, most school nurses are not too bothered about what nutrients the children are getting.

The nutrition knowledge gaps in nursing are more a result of apathy and nonchalance rather than ignorance of any kind. The need of the hour is the right kind of attention and efforts expended in empowering nurses to ensure that people are aware of the benefits of eating nutritious food.

This article is contributed by Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the subject of Midwife Nursing Degrees. She invites your questions, comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address: