Knowledge about the assessment and management of undernutrition: a pilot questionnaire in a UK teaching hospital

Clin Nutr. 1999 Feb;18(1):23-7. doi: 10.1016/s0261-5614(99)80045-4.


Background & aims: The detection, prevention and treatment of undernutrition in hospitals is often poor. This study assesses the knowledge about undernutrition of staff in a UK teaching hospital.

Methods: Twenty nine doctors, 65 final year medical students, 45 nurses, 11 dietitians, and 11 pharmacists anonymously completed a questionnaire of 20 multiple choice questions. One of five possible answers was considered correct. Twelve questions were about adult nutritional assessment and requirements, five about oral/enteral nutrition and three about parenteral nutrition.

Results: Dietitians scored significantly more (median 16) than the other groups (doctors: seven, medical students: eight, nurses: seven and pharmacists: nine) (P < 0.0001). Medical students scored more than doctors (P < 0.001). Examples of areas in which knowledge could be improved are: 67% respondents thought the prevalence of hospital undernutrition to be less than 30%. While 91% of respondents correctly chose a well 70 kg man to need about 2000 kcal/day, only 23% knew that approximately the same amount was needed for a febrile post-operative patient. Sixteen percent knew antibiotic treatment to be the most common reason for enteral feeding-related diarrhoea.

Conclusions: Knowledge about the assessment and management of undernutrition among doctors, medical students, nurses and pharmacists was poor. This questionnaire provides a framework for teaching and auditing the effectiveness of an educational program.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dietetics
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nurses
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Nutrition Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Nutrition Disorders* / prevention & control
  • Nutrition Disorders* / therapy
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Personnel, Hospital*
  • Pharmacists
  • Physicians
  • Pilot Projects
  • Students, Medical
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • United Kingdom