October 6, 2021

Malnutrition rates significantly reduced

Malnutrition Week Australia New Zealand (ANZ) is marked from 4 – 8 October 2021, with the goal to ‘help fight malnutrition by getting involved and raising awareness’.

Northern Health has made significant gains in identifying and managing patients at malnutrition risk. This week is an opportunity to celebrate our achievements in reducing malnutrition prevalence amongst our inpatients.

Steph Yap, Dietitian, explained that for the last three years, the dietetics department has undertaken malnutrition prevalence studies to understand how many of our inpatients are malnourished at one point in time.

“Malnutrition rates have significantly decreased across both the acute and subacute service streams and are less than the national prevalence,” she explained.

This year, none of the malnourished inpatients were classified as ‘missed malnourished patients’, meaning all high malnutrition risk patients had been screened by nursing and referred to dietetics for nutrition care.

In honour of Malnutrition Week ANZ, the Northern Health dietetics department want to say a big “thank you” to our nursing staff for their amazing efforts in completing malnutrition risk screening and weighing of inpatients, and referring to the dietetics department when indicated.

One ward excelling in malnutrition identification and management is Kath Atkinson Wing Aged (KAW) at Bundoora Centre. This ward specialises in managing patients with BPSD-related dementia, delirium and with other medical conditions requiring high level of nursing care and who also have high malnutrition risk.

Vinnie Shetty, Nursing Nutrition Champion at Kath Atkinson Wing, explains how she supports nursing staff to ensure patients receive timely malnutrition screening and intervention.

In our KAW ward, I run regular in-services on malnutrition re-screening, dietitian referrals and weekly weights every Saturday. Reminding staff about this weekly process keeps us on track with our shared responsibility in identifying and preventing malnutrition,” she said.

This patient cohort often present with fluctuating food refusal, reduced self-feeding ability, and/or swallowing difficulties, which negatively impacts on their ability to meet their nutrition and hydration needs. Malnutrition can then lead to other related complications such as pressure injuries, high risk of falls, increased confusion and poor wound healing.

As part of Vinnie’s work, she liaises with nursing staff, dietitians and the Malnutrition Working Group to provide feedback around malnutrition screening processes, and advocate for nutrition at Northern Health. Her work in achieving high rates of malnutrition screening at Northern Health has recently been acknowledged by the Nutrition and Hydration Sub Clinical Improvement Committee.

“KAW has been performing really well in the last quarter. The average KAW compliance rate was 95 per cent or higher for malnutrition screening on admission, weekly re-screening and referrals to the dietitian,” said Steph.

“It’s been a complete joy to work with Vinnie, and see a friendly face on the ward who is so proactive in advocating for nutrition on behalf of our patients. Often the best way to enact change is to do so with someone working on the inside, and we are so grateful to have Vinnie as our Nutrition Champion in KAW,” she concluded.

Featured image (left to right): Stephanie Yap, Clinical Dietitian and Vilasini Shetty, Registered Nurse/Nursing Nutrition Champion.