Nutrition - communication
Nursing staff are at the heart of the communication process. They play a key role in seeing that appropriate care and support planning is in place based on identifying patients/service users’ needs.
They ensure that by maintaining the quality of record keeping they communicate effectively with the health and social care team. This includes identifying measurable goals and agreeing evaluation dates so that progress can be monitored.
One of the first steps in identifying patients/service users' needs is to use a validated screening tool, such as the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool, to identify people at risk (BAPEN 2003). Staff use the assessment to develop a care/support plan and engage with patients/service users to identify their requirements and preferences. Staff monitor the plan against these individual nutritional needs with particular attention to those most vulnerable to nutritional risk.
Communication issues have been identified as contributing to a large number of patient safety incidents (Joint Commission Resources 2007). Problems typically arise at shift or patient handovers and/or involve ambiguous or poorly recorded information in patient files. Status can also inhibit how information is transferred.
Many safety critical industries have recognised the importance of communication and have introduced ways of addressing these factors. Briefing tools such as SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation) give opportunities for team members to share information and speak up (NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement 2008; Risky Business 2011, World Health Organization 2009). Use of communication tools, such as the one developed by Health Improvement Scotland (2011), can help minimise the risk to the continuity of care caused by poor discharge planning.
- the section in this resource on Improvement actions: nutritional care communication tool.
- the sections in the online resource on Patient safety and human factors: human factors - communication and action on communication.
These resources were last accessed on 29 January 2013. Some of them are in PDF format - see how to use PDF files.
BAPEN (2003) MUST toolkit. Redditch: BAPEN.
Joint Commission Resources (2007) Improving hand-off communication. Illinois: Joint Commission Resources (Made available by Google eBooks).
Healthcare Improvement Scotland (2011) Nutritional care communication tool. Edinburgh: Healthcare Improvement Scotland.
NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement (2008) SBAR Situation – Background – Assessment – Recommendation. NHS Institute website.
Risky Business (2012) SBAR acute handover. (An example video of how to do an acute handover using the SBAR technique). Risky Business website.
World Health Organization (2009) Human factors in patient safety. Review of topics and tools. Report for methods and measures working (PDF 1.10MB). Geneva: WHO.
Learning materials on the application of MUST are signposted at Knowledge and skills.
National Patient Safety Agency (2009) Nutrition factsheets. 10 key characteristics of good nutritional care in hospital: 07 prevalence of malnutrition. London: NPSA.
Royal College of Nursing (2010) Principles of Nursing Practice: Principle E
The Principles describe what everyone can expect from nursing practice, whether colleagues, patients, their families or carers. Principle E focuses on communication, handling feedback, record keeping, reporting and monitoring. This page brings together RCN resources which are particularly relevant to this Principle.