Front row (left to right): Jennifer Linton MS, RD, CDM, LDN, Kristin Blaha RD, LDN, Pam Williams-Pearson RD, CNSC, LDN. Back row (left to right): Dawn Santacroce MBA, RD, LDN, Crystal Bouchard RD, LDN, Diane McArtor MBA, RD, CDE, LDN. Not pictured: Alexis Nazario RD, LDN, and Susan Dunlap MS,RD, CNSC, LDN, Senior Manager of Patient Services.
Upon discharge from the hospital, many patients could probably name the doctors and nurses who ordered tests, performed surgery, administered medications, and monitored vital signs during their stay.
What patients might not realize is that another team also followed them from the moment they were admitted: the hospital’s clinical nutrition staff.
This month, we recognize the eight registered dietitians on the Bayhealth Clinical Nutrition team, the folks who ensure your body is healthy enough to handle the medical treatments your doctor orders.
A recent study found that 70% of hospitalized patients experience a nutritional decline during their hospital stay. When patients need critical care, a life-saving procedure may be more top-of-mind than checking on daily meals.
However, consuming enough calories is just as important as following the treatment regimen.
“People may not be aware that proper nutrition leads to better clinical outcomes and a shorter hospital stay,” said Susan Dunlap, MS, RD, CNSC, LDN, Bayhealth Senior Manager of Patient Services, Food and Nutrition Services.
In general, more serious conditions carry the greatest risk for malnutrition. The registered dietitians, or RDs, spend the majority of their time with patients who are not eating or who need support such as feeding tubes or IV nutrition.
An RD follows each patient from the point of admission, assessing nutritional health and collaborating with the care team. A stroke patient, for instance, who loses the ability to swallow may face speech and language challenges, but also will need support with eating.
RDs also work closely with pharmacists to determine the appropriate balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fluids that comprise the IV solutions for patients unable to absorb nutrition via the stomach route. The Clinical Nutrition team creates individualized nutrition plans to meet each patient’s unique dietary needs.
In addition to caring for patients in our hospitals, this group of nutrition experts offers counseling services to the Bayhealth Cancer Center, Weight Loss Surgery and other outpatient programs. The Bayhealth Wellness Centers at Phyllis Wheatley Middle and Milford, Lake Forest, and Woodbridge High Schools also benefit from education on a wide variety of nutrition topics, from obesity to managing food allergies.