Why is nutrition important to someone in ICU?

30/Jun/2020     Health

There are many diverse roles in the Mater Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and today we meet Team Lead in Dietetics Bronwyn Bartholomew who is responsible for ensuring ICU patients are well nourished and healthy, so they can recover as quickly as possible.

Bronwyn says there is no such thing as a typical day in the ICU, every day presents new challenges and patients who need help.

“My role is to work alongside a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and more to assess the individual needs of the patient and ensure they have optimal nutrition which will best support their recovery,” she said.

“The majority of our patients in the ICU will receive their nutrition through a feeding tube, as they may be sedated or require other tubes to support their breathing. It’s critical we provide the patient with the correct nutrition for their needs balancing protein, carbohydrates and fats.

“We typically provide a high protein diet for our patients while in the ICU so they don’t lose muscle mass.”

Bronwyn says for patients who can sit up and eat many of them are still on a texture modified diet and they provide food to the patient as advised by a speech pathologist.

“We must ensure the food we provide is safe for them to swallow and we can often fortify their meals to add in extra nutrition when required,” she explained.

“In the ICU we believe in a food first philosophy where we harness the natural nutrients found in whole foods before we give patients a supplement.”

She said one of the biggest misconceptions about her role is people believe the dietitians are there to help people lose weight.

“This couldn’t be further from the truth, we are there to advise the medical team on optimal nutrition for patient recovery. ICU is not the place for weight loss,” she said.

“Other challenges we face in the ICU are the fact we often can’t speak with our patients who may be sedated or on a ventilator. So, it is important that we speak with family to find out more about the patient’s history.

“There are many highlights in my role as well, we recently helped a long-term patient spend the day at home for his mother’s birthday. It took a great deal of effort from all teams but it was so worthwhile and a great example of how we go above and beyond for our patients.”

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