How important is it for nurses to have knowledge of Nutrition?

  1. Hello Nurses!

    I recently graduated with a degree in nutrition, with an option in dietetics. I have always loved studying nutrition, but during my Senior year of school i realized dietetics was not the field for me. I have chosen to become a nurse and will be starting an accelerated program in June.

    I would like to ask the nurses on this forum how much they use their knowledge of nutrition; do you feel that it is a necessary subject to have mastered? or do you think nurses should know more? I'm curious to know if my degree is wasted, or if it will be an advantage for me to have.

    Thanks for all your input!
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    About NutraNurse

    Joined: Mar '11; Posts: 10
    from US


  3. by   Heidi the nurse
    YES! Very important. With the increase in obesity especially. I work in the schools, so use nutritional knowledge daily. I also work with diabetic students, so do alot of extra education in that area related to nutrition. Where you end up working as a nurse will probably dictate how much you use your nutrition degree.
  4. by   fancyhen
    No your education is not wasted. Most nurses know the basics of nutrition but depending on what your specility is, nutrition can play a huge role. If you decide to work in wound healing, diabetics, cardiac or just about other area, having such an impressive background will help you alot. You've also taken lots of A&P, microbiology etc type of classes too and that will help. You've also learned good study habits that will make your life a little easier. Good luck.
  5. by   enchantmentdis
    Hospitals, LTCs, ALFs have dietician. They will handle the nutrition part for the most part. You will have plenty to do just trying to do your nursing stuff.
  6. by   JazzysMama
    Im a student, yet I'll weigh in It's VERY important! If you have a patient come in with a K+ level of 3.2, it will be important for you to be able to tell them dietary ways to keep their potassium at optimal levels. Also, the majority of your patients will have weight issues, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease....nutrition counsel will be much needed in those patients
  7. by   noahsmama
    When I was taking the prerequisites for nursing school, there was only one local nursing school out of many that still required Nutrition as a prerequisite. Since I wanted to apply to that school, I took the class, but felt somewhat resentful because I really didn't think it would be useful. Until I actually took the class -- I found it fascinating, enjoyed the reading, got an A+. I'm still finding it to be one of the most useful classes -- I use the knowledge I gained in that class all the time. Yes it's true that hospitals have dieticians on staff, but I still felt it benefitted me to understand what the dieticians were doing. And now that I'm working in public health, understanding nutrition is incredibly useful to me.

    So yes, your knowledge of nutrition will be useful in your nursing career.
  8. by   07302003
    Very important - I see the need in ICU a lot.
    Patient with chronic kidney disease, liver disease, lung disease - poor nutritional status and intake exacerbate their disease process, as well as the wrong intake...
    As well as those who come in (esp. the frail elderly) with PCM, low albumin, etc. for a multitude of reasons.
    The importance of tube feeds for critically ill (and which one to choose). As nurses, we advocate to START tube feeds a lot, it is sometimes overlooked for patients on vents.
    Re-feeding syndrome. Monitoring lytes.
    Realizing how some drug therapies will be affected by low albumin.
    Bio-chemistry related to nutrition should (I hope) be useful when analysing electrolyte, fluid, and acid-base imbalances.
    Your degree will give you a great background!
  9. by   07302003
    And yes, I had several NCLEX questions on renal diet when I took boards!
  10. by   Isabelle49
    A background in dietetics would be wonderful as a Nurse. Nutrition is the most important factor in wound care. You could easily go beyond being a nurse by also being a WOCN - I believe they are in short supply and high demand. Whenever I need info on Nutrition, I hit the books or the internet, cause the Docs don't do nutrition and I do a lot of wounds.
  11. by   Bobbkat
    In general, yes important. To my particular specialty (NICU), not important at all.
  12. by   msjellybean
    OP, I could have written your post. I did the exact same thing and my timing in realizing dietetics wasn't right for me was almost exactly the same.

    I was most thankful for the science background it gave me when I went into nursing school. And thanks to my program, I'd been critically thinking since my freshman year.

    I use my nutrition background quite a bit in my practice, especially when it comes to starting talk of TPN. Some of the docs I work with will let a pt linger for weeks (I kid you not) without taking hardly anything PO, before the nutrition support topic is brought up. I try to get the ball rolling a little more quickly.

    Given your more in-depth and accurate knowledge, you will probably find that you're more qualified to give nutrition education than most of your fellow RNs; who may have only had an introductory class. I also find that I keep up with the latest nutrition news & I keep up with my RD friends as well and they kinda keep me in the loop with the new ideas & practices.
  13. by   Caffeinated RN
    I think it's great to have such knowledge!

    One time I visited my PCP, and I happened to mention that I was having lots of stress at work, and this was causing some lifesytle issues (i.e. insomnia, not eating right, etc.). Well, my PCP referred me to a psychologist against my will, since I had no psychiatric issues (stressing about work is commonplace after all! How would therapy alleviate the fact that my boss is crazy! LOL)

    I went to the appointment anyhow, and as it turned out, the psychiatrist also had a degree in nutrition. Instead of discussing my work situation, we talked about my lifestyle, mainly my eating, and she helped create a plan to at least keep me healthy while I was going through the stress. It was such an eye-opening session!

    So, you never know how that degree may come in handy! And btw, I now work for a place I love!
  14. by   NutraNurse
    Thanks everyone! Your insight is very encouraging.

    Special thanks to 07302003. I aspire to become a CRNA and will need experience in the ICU, so thanks for the new focus in my study areas.

    Isabelle49: I'll look into WOCN. I've never heard of this specialty!

    msjellybean: do you have any good nutrition mag or website recommendations? Are there any specific to the field of nursing? I subscribe to Today's Dietitian and stop by the ADA website from time to time, but would love to expand my resources.

    One last thing, I'm pretty ignorant of who is in charge of counseling what. So when is it the dietitians job to counsel the patient on nutrition issues vs a doctor vs a nurse?