The Need for Nutritional Education Reform in US Medical Education System

Am Surg. 2020 Dec 9;3134820971621. doi: 10.1177/0003134820971621. Online ahead of print.


Background: To compare the setting, quality, and utility of nutritional education received by general surgery residents and faculty surgeons and their perceptions and challenges in managing patient nutritional needs.

Methods: Cross-sectional analysis utilizing anonymous survey data distributed by the Association of Program Directors in Surgery (APDS) to its affiliated general surgery residency programs.

Results: 90.2% (n = 65) of residents and 85.7% (n = 24) of faculty surgeons reported having received nutritional education. The majority (78%) of respondents utilize patient nutrition on a regular basis (monthly or more often), with 54% reporting utilization daily or weekly. Overall, 65% of respondents reported experiencing challenges in managing patient nutritional needs, and 86% agreed that additional nutritional education during training would assist with patient care. Residents and faculty surgeons both significantly reported challenges in determining which specific nutritional formula to use (X2 = 22.414, P = .049). Residents were associated with reporting challenges in successfully managing oral, enteral, and parenteral routes of nutrition (X2 = 16.241, P = .023).

Conclusions: Despite receiving nutritional education, the majority of surgery residents and faculty surgeons report difficulty in managing their patients nutritional needs. Surgery residents report difficulties with all delivery modes of nutrition, including oral, parenteral, and enteral. Revising medical school nutritional education competencies to focus on more practical aspects of nutrition, reform of formal course format, greater interprofessional collaboration with dieticians starting at the student level, and enforcement of nutritional education requirements by medical school and residency program accrediting bodies can serve to advance physicians' nutritional knowledge and improve patient outcomes.

Keywords: curriculum; faculty surgeon; medical student education; nutritional education; patient outcomes; resident education; surgery.