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Understanding is the key

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VOL: 97, ISSUE: 44, PAGE NO: 45

Hazel Rollins

It is widely acknowledged that food and nutrition are a fundamental and essential part of nursing care (Department of Health, 2001). In order to deliver appropriate nutritional care nurses need both factual knowledge and an understanding of the underlying nutritional principles. The Audit Commission (2001) recently published a report into education, training and development for health care staff in NHS trusts. It showed that the average trust invests over £1m annually in education and training. So that should have it covered then? Well no, actually - the report also argues that:

It is widely acknowledged that food and nutrition are a fundamental and essential part of nursing care (Department of Health, 2001). In order to deliver appropriate nutritional care nurses need both factual knowledge and an understanding of the underlying nutritional principles. The Audit Commission (2001) recently published a report into education, training and development for health care staff in NHS trusts. It showed that the average trust invests over £1m annually in education and training. So that should have it covered then? Well no, actually - the report also argues that:

- Training needs are often not identified or planned for;

- One third of staff in trusts visited had not had their training needs identified;

- One half of these staff did not have a personal development plan;

- There is a five-fold variation in spending between trusts;

- Health care assistants and part-time staff had poorer access to training.

The Luton and Dunstable Hospital NHS Trust commissioned an independent analysis of learning needs in 1999 (Rollins et al, 2000). Problem-based case studies were used to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of clinical nutrition. Although knowledge scores were satisfactory, understanding was often poor. This has led to changes in our nutrition education activities.

The Audit Commission report advises on the roles that individuals, managers, training specialists and trust boards should play. It is argued that individuals should take responsibility for their personal development and share what they have learned with others. The fact that you have been motivated to read this journal is evidence of your commitment to personal development. It would be wonderful if it could stimulate you to submit your own work for publication.

In society we are bombarded with nutrition information that may or may not be true. As health professionals it is important that we are able to evaluate this information so that we can guide our patients in making choices. The papers in this supplement by Lesley Milne and Anne Sutcliffe will help to meet this need. The inspiring paper by Pauline Matthews on the development of the nurse endoscopist is a great example of a trust identifying a service need and of a nurse managing her own learning agenda to the benefit of all. She is to be congratulated.

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