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A pilot study of the effect of a nutrition education programme on the nutrition knowledge and practice of nurses

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The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) recognises the key role that nurses play in the identification and management of nutritional issues as they have the most frequent contact with patients(Green & Watson, 2007). However, it has been suggested that under-nutrition is frequently unrecognised due to the lack of nutrition training and subsequent awareness of frontline nursing staff (Elia et al., 2005). The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of a nutrition education programme on nutrition knowledge, practice and awareness in a small sample of nursing staff. Methods: 

Nursing staff from the acute hospital setting completed a pre-training questionnaires and from this a Positive Nutrition Education Programme was devised educating nursing staff on nutrition and how to utilise Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (MUST). A post training questionnaire was then completed, on the same wards, one month following training. The maximum achievable knowledge score was 31 for both questionnaires. The nutrition knowledge, practice and awareness were analysed using quantitative and qualitative descriptive analyses; a chi squared test was used to look at the effect of pre education. Results: 

Mean (SD) knowledge scores pre and post nutrition education for all staff were not significantly different [21 (6.7) and 23 (6.2) respectively]. This may be attributed to the large standard deviations seen or the small sample size. However for Band five nurses (pre-training n =9, post training n =6) a significant improvement in mean knowledge scores was noted [22 (4.2) and 27 (2) respectively; P = 0.007]. Discussion: 

This small study highlights the positive attitudes of nursing staff to the use of a nutrition screening tool such as MUST regardless of training. It also suggests that a Positive Nutrition Education Programme could improve nutritional knowledge, increase nutritional awareness, and result in improved nutritional practices. This finding is in agreement with that of other studies in that further nutritional training for nursing and nursing support staff is required to improve nutrition screening and nutrition practices on acute hospital wards (Elia & Russell, 2008). Conclusion: 

Further, more detailed studies into the impact of training on nursing nutrition awareness and practice, specifically in relation to MUST may suggest ways to improve compliance with the nutrition screening of patients. References: 

Green, S.M. & Watson, R. (2005). Nutritional screening and assessment tools for use by nurses: literature review. J. Adv. Nurs.50, 69–83.

Elia, M. Zellipour, L. & Stratton, R. (2005) To screen or not to screen for adult malnutrition? Clin. Nutr.24, 867–884.

Elia, M. & Russell, C. (2008) Combating Malnutrition: Recommendations for Action. (BAPEN), Redditch.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine, UK and 2: Nutrition and Dietetics Department, Craigavon Area Hospital, UK e-mail:, Email:

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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