Clinical Nutrition Program

What is clinical nutrition?

A balanced diet is essential to good health, especially when you are recovering from surgery or managing a condition such as cancer or diabetes. During your inpatient stay at Maine Medical Center (MMC), our clinical nutrition team will work with you to make sure you are taking in the right balance of nutrients to support your medical condition. Services include:

  • Nutrition exams and consultations
  • Customized nutrition interventions
  • Nutrition support
  • Nutrition diagnostics and education 

These important services can help decrease: your recovery time, the length of your hospital stay, your risk of complications, and your chance of returning to the hospital.

Who needs clinical nutrition services?

Our clinical nutrition specialists help people of all ages who are hospitalized with medical conditions such as:

  • Malnutrition
  • Critical care
  • Cancer
  • Wound healing
  • Lung disease
  • Renal disease
  • Age-related conditions
  • Gastrointestinal disease
  • Diabetes

What should I expect as a clinical nutrition patient?

At MMC, clinical nutrition care is provided by a large team of experienced specialists including: dietetic technicians, registered dietitians, a board-certified nutrition support pharmacist, and board-certified physicians.

Consultation

A nutrition specialist will meet with you to evaluate your current nutritional status. This will include a detailed review of:

• Recent illness or surgeries
• Your current diet
• Malnutrition risk factors such as unplanned weight loss

Your nutrition specialist may also recommend laboratory testing and/or perform a nutrition-focused physical exam to further identify any nutrient deficiency.

Nutrition-Focused Physical Exam

A nutrition focused physical exam is a head to toe examination completed by a dietitian to help uncover signs of malnutrition, nutrient deficiencies or toxicities. With your permission, the dietitian will look for signs of fat loss and muscle wasting and examine your skin, hair, nails, mouth and eyes.

 

The exam takes about five minutes and helps us develop a customized plan to meet your unique nutritional goals during (and sometimes after) your hospital stay. This may include:

  • A specialized diet to correct nutritional deficiencies
  • Nutrition support using supplements, tube feeding or intravenous feeding
  • Nutrition education

Nutrition Support

Your doctor may recommend nutrition support if you are unable to meet your nutrition needs by eating food. Depending on your clinical condition, nutrition support may be delivered by:


  • Enteral Nutrition (EN): Also known as “tube feeding,” EN is a method of delivering nutrients via a special tube that is placed in your nose (naso), stomach (gastric) or small intestine (enteric). For short term tube feedings, nasogastric or nasoenteric tubes are typically used as they do not require surgery and are easier to place and remove. If you need tube feeding for a long period of time, the tube will likely be placed surgically through skin into your stomach or small intestine. Learn more.
  • Parenteral Nutrition (PN): PN is a way to provide nutrition to people who are unable to eat or receive tube feeding. Your doctor may recommend PN if you have a disease that affects your ability to digest and absorb food. PN bypasses normal digestion and absorption using a fluid that is delivered intravenously (directly into one of your veins). Learn more.

Both EN and PN can be provided to people of all ages - for short periods of time or indefinitely, if necessary. Sometimes a combination of both methods is used. Patient safety is our highest priority. A nutrition specialist will follow up with you frequently to make sure your nutrition plan is working well.

 

Nutrition Education

Education may also be part of your nutrition plan. For example, people with diabetes need to know how to count carbohydrates and people with cardiac disease need to know how to follow a heart healthy diet. If nutrition education is recommended, a registered dietitian or dietetic technician will meet with you to:


  • Talk about your diet
  • Assess your understanding of the nutrients you need to stay healthy
  • Provide a written plan for you to follow

What is a Registered Dietitian?

Registered dietitians (RD) have completed extensive training including:


  • A minimum of a bachelor's degree
  • Required supervised practice/experience
  • Passed a national examination

Many people claim to be "nutritionists" but do not carry the same level of training so it is important to check for credentials. All Maine Medical Center dietitians are registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and are licensed dietitians in the State of Maine. Several dietitians also have advanced degrees and/or specialty certifications.


For more information visit www.cdrnet.org.  

What is a Dietetic Technician?

Dietetic technicians (DTRs) are an integral part of the clinical nutrition team. Dietetic technicians have:


  • Completed a dietetic technician program with supervised practice
  • Passed a national examination

They work closely with registered dietitians to:


  • Implement nutrition care plans
  • Provide specialized nutrition education
  • Monitor patients’ nutritional status

For more information visit www.cdrnet.org.

Where can I get more information?

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