Nutritional content in undergraduate education in the University of Wales College of Medicine.
University of Wales Institute, Cardiff.
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This exploratory study was carried out using a multi-method approach to critically investigate the provision of nutrition education for medical and nursing undergraduates at the University of Wales College of Medicine. The role of nutrition in a patients care has come to the forefront in recent years, with numerous studies, literature and government documentation highlighting its importance. We have seen recent media campaigns which have tried to make people aware and combat the rising problems of obesity. Professional and governing bodies have reacted to the increasing awareness of the problems that nutrition can bring by indicating how all undergraduate courses should include nutrition as part of the training for both medical and nursing students. The author, as a specialist nurse in nutrition, wanted to establish if her own Trust had recognised its importance and had made provision to educate those future doctors and nurses coming through the College of Medicine at present. Data was collected from a number of sources, including a documentary analysis of the current nursing and medical curricula to pinpoint the inclusion of nutrition based topics, a literature review, a review of professional and government documentation, interviews with lecturers based within the college who are involved in teaching nutrition to medical and nursing students and questionnaires distributed to qualified medical and nursing staff working in Llandough Hospital within the Trust. The results from the documentary analysis demonstrated that both the medical and nursing curricula contain a substantial amount of input about nutrition throughout each year of the course and even though the aims and objectives for the students for specific clinical placements would not be nutrition based the author is aware that the types of patients that they would be in contact with would have nutritional issues. All students were taught with a mixture of teaching and learning opportunities to develop a good basis in knowledge, this included working with the multi-disciplinary teams in the clinical setting as well as theory based teaching in the classroom. The author did feel in her interviews that the college lecturers demonstrated differing levels of enthusiasm towards the topic of nutrition. The School of Nursing appeared to be more aware of what was contained within the curriculum and why it had evolved to the current format. The School of Nursing has also taken on board professional and government recommendations and developed a curriculum that provides nutritional education as a completely integrated topic. The problems of an overloaded curriculum and staff with relevant experience appeared to pose problems for the Medical School. Generally what has been demonstrated from the study is that 'malnutrition' was underestimated by the qualifîed members of staff, they were aware that it did exist but did not feel that the problem was as prevalent as it is. Both doctors and nurses demonstrated an awareness of the responsibility for a patient's nutritional care, but the boundaries of whose role it is are very grey. They must realise that they are part of a multi-disciplinary team that is working together to address an important issue and that it is everyone's responsibility. The author on assessing the qualified doctors and nurses perceptions on how 'nutritionally aware' the medical and nursing students were in the clinical setting and how effective current teaching had been, showed that nursing students fared marginally better than medical students and appeared to demonstrate that they had more nutritional knowledge, although both sets of students used what knowledge they had in the ward environment. Recommendations have been made at the end of the study.
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