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What is an inpatient registered dietitian?

Four women pose together to the left of a Skagit Regional Health sign outside.

Inpatient dietitians have a very important place in a patient’s hospital stay. They educate patients on the impact of nutrition and their overall health, working collaboratively with the healthcare team to determine each patient’s nutritional needs during their admission. Whether it’s diabetes, kidney disease, GI diseases or cancer (to name a few), dietitians are available to help with a patient’s nutritional and educational needs.

One of the biggest focuses for an inpatient registered dietitian is malnutrition. One-third of patients admitted to the hospitals are malnourished. If patients enter a hospital malnourished, it can have a negative impact on their healing process, length of hospital stay, mortality and health care costs.

Patients may also become malnourished during their hospital stay. This could be due to their body requiring more nutrition than usual, or they may not be able to absorb the nutrients they eat. Some hospital patients may need to receive nutrition through a feeding tube or even intravenous nutrition, where the digestive tract is bypassed altogether.

The inpatient registered dietitian team at Skagit Regional Health works diligently to screen patients for malnutrition and make recommendations to help patients receive the proper nutrition they need. They assess malnutrition using weight history, dietary intake, lab values and physical exams. Nutrition screening occurs ideally within the first 24 hours of admission by our nursing staff. Screening criteria usually include weight and height, recent weight change, oral intake and sometimes diagnosis and/or other comorbidities. A nutrition-focused physical exam, also known as an “NFPE,” involves checking for body fat and muscle loss, fluid accumulation and hand grip strength.

To learn more about nutrition counseling and services provided by Skagit Regional Health registered dietitians, click here

PHOTO CAPTION: Inpatient registered dietitian team at Skagit Valley Hospital: (Left to right) Cheryl Eubanks, RD; Danielle Gimlin, RD; Carly Anderson, RD and Annaka Garcia, Dietitian Supervisor. Not pictured: Emily Ekanger, RD and Christina Sackman, RD.