Nutritional care of older patients: experiences of general practitioners and practice nurses.
Older people living in the community face unique nutritional issues that put them at risk of undernutrition, which is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Primary healthcare staff such as general practitioners (GPs) and practice nurses (PNs) are well placed to identify nutritional problems early and intervene. The aim of this study was to understand the experiences and current practices in a sample of GPs and PNs with regards to nutritional care of elderly patients. An online survey of GPs and PNs working in regional Victoria was conducted. Among the 45 respondents, 89% reported encountering consultations with a nutritional component for older patients within the previous 3 months, and 94% of those took some action, most commonly referrals, dietary advice or prescribing supplements. Although the majority (63%) felt confident in providing appropriate nutritional recommendations for patients, 68% reported a desire for further professional development in the area. Given the frequency of nutritional issues presenting, further work is required to determine how well equipped primary healthcare staff are to provide nutritional advice to older patients.