Knowledge and attitudes of surgical trainees towards nutritional support: food for thought

Clin Nutr. 2010 Apr;29(2):243-8. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2009.08.016. Epub 2009 Sep 19.


Background & aims: Up to 40% of patients admitted to UK hospitals are malnourished and appropriate nutritional intervention can improve outcomes. We investigated the knowledge and attitudes of UK surgical trainees towards nutritional support and compared their responses with dieticians.

Methods: Trainee surgeons and qualified dieticians were asked to complete a multiple choice question test derived from topics relating to nutritional support, followed by a questionnaire on their attitudes towards nutrition. Participants were unaware that they would be tested.

Results: The test was administered to 63 doctors and 25 dieticians. There were 19 newly qualified doctors (foundation year 1 [FY(1)]), 21 junior surgeons (speciality-training years 1 and 2 [ST(1-2)]) and 23 senior surgeons (speciality-training years 3 and above [ST(3+)]). Mean [SE] test scores were lower for doctors compared to dieticians (14.0 [0.64] versus 26.4 [0.22], p<0.001). The respective test scores for FY(1), ST(1-2), ST(3+) doctors were 9.8 [0.78], 14.3 [1.10] and 17.3 [0.76]. Only 47% of doctors felt they had adequate knowledge of this subject and 65% stated that they regularly made decisions on nutritional support. Furthermore, only 25% stated they could calculate daily energy and nutritional requirements.

Conclusion: Despite making decisions related to nutritional support regularly, surgical doctors in the UK demonstrated less knowledge of the fundamental principles of nutritional support than dieticians.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Allied Health Personnel / psychology
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Dietetics
  • England
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Malnutrition / diet therapy
  • Malnutrition / prevention & control
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / education
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Nutritional Support*
  • Surgery Department, Hospital*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors