The Shrinking of Formalized Nutrition Education in Health Professions Curricula and Postgraduate Training

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Abstract

The quantity of formalized nutrition education is shrinking in curricula of health professions, such as physicians, nurses, dietitians, and pharmacists. The current nutrition education being taught in U.S. schools of healthcare professionals does not appropriately prepare students for identification of patients at nutrition risk or management of undernourished hospitalized patients with specialized nutrition therapies. In U.S. schools of pharmacy, parenteral nutrition is considered a highly specialized and advanced practice so little time is devoted to this area and more attention is focused on chronic disease state management (ie, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and congestive heart failure). Nutrition support fellowships for physicians and nutrition support residency programs for pharmacists have dwindled in number over the years so that only a handful of these healthcare professionals are produced each year from the remaining formalized programs. Physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and dietitians can positively affect patient care, but each profession must first determine how best to integrate basic and applied nutrition concepts into their professional curricula and training programs. There must also be consensus among the healthcare professions as to the depth of nutrition education and the stage of training at which these integrations should occur. Only by having these crucial conversations among all disciplines will we be able to develop new strategies to expand nutrition education in the training of future medical practitioners.

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