At the weeklong session organised by the Academy of Nutrition in the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, Chennai, nursing students participated in hour-long training programmes each day. Each day students who are assigned to the various departments will learn how to handle he nutritional needs of patients they care for.

The nursing students even during their training are expected to gather information from the patient and their attendants, identify symptoms and collect history to arrive at the correct dietary pattern for the patient. For instance, a person who has been on naso-gastric feeding tube has specific nutritional requirements and a nurse or doctor or paramedic who has the necessary knowledge would improve the treatment modalities.

R. Karpagavalli, a third year nursing student, is currently posted to the cardiothoracic surgery department. Even the one session that she has attended so far has been a great help, she says. “We can segregate patients according to their needs and counsel them,” she said. In the ward she has been assigned to, most patients are anaemic and require intensive nutritional counselling.

Her classmate B. Kalaiarasi who has been posted to the Oncology ward is attending on patients with cancer of oesophagus. “I have to give the patients kanji or juice or milk and I should know what the patient most requires as these patients’ feed must be monitored every two hours,” she said.

As the nurses are required to maintain the intake chart of each patient and training in clinical nutrition helps them, said R. Nirmala, who has been posted to the Hematology department, which has a lot of patients with anaemia. According to her there are different types of anaemia and each requires specific nutritional intake.

Meenakshi Sachdev a dietician with the Institute of Diabetology at the hospital said as doctors are busy, educating the nurse on the appropriate nutritional requirements of the patients is necessary.

“It is necessary to teach a lactating mother the importance of eating the right food,” said S. Sarojini, a dietician attached to the Government Maternity Hospital in Egmore who conducted a session for the nursing students last week.

“The student must first understand the importance of nutrition for a lactating mother as it is human milk that helps build immunity in a baby.”

Ms. Sachdev said the programme will eventually cover medical students also. “The nursing students have nutrition as a subject and we plan to structure their syllabus. For the medical students nutrition is not a subject. We will request the Dean to post students doing compulsory rotatory residential internship for two or three days so that they understand the need for maintaining nutritional levels when patients are in their care,” she said.

The Academy has been set up as a public-private partnership initiative.

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R. SujathaJune 28, 2012