Malnutrition is prevalent in hospitalized medical patients: Are housestaff identifying the malnourished patient?

Harminder Singh, Kym Watt, Rebecca Veitch, Michael Cantor, Donald R. Duerksen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Objective: Malnutrition is highly prevalent in hospitalized patients and is often not identified by the medical staff. Clinical nutrition and nutritional assessment are often neglected components of the curriculum of medical schools. The effect of instruction of nutritional assessment early in medical school on nutritional practice in clinical training is unknown. Four years after the introduction of nutritional assessment in the medical school curriculum, we assessed the knowledge of medical students and residents of nutritional assessment and the practice of this clinical skill in hospitalized medical patients. Methods: We determined the nutritional status of 69 patients on a general medical ward within 10 d of their hospital admission. Hospital records were reviewed to determine the documentation of nutrition-related issues and practices. A questionnaire was then administered to the housestaff to determine their knowledge of assessment of nutritional status. Results: Significant malnutrition was found in 69% of patients. Only one patient was identified as being malnourished by the housestaff. References to nutritional status were recorded in two patient charts. History of weight loss, appetite status, current oral intake, and functional status were recorded for fewer than 33% of patients. Although measurements of visceral protein stores (albumin and prealbumin) did not correlate with nutritional status, medical students and residents considered these to be the best markers of nutritional status. Conclusions: Malnutrition is common in hospitalized patients. Instruction of second-year medical students in assessment of nutritional status does not result in improved knowledge or practice of nutritional assessment in the clinical training years as medical housestaff. Additional instruction in nutritional assessment during clinical training needs to be emphasized. Hospitals need to develop standardized protocols for assessment of nutritional status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)350-354
Number of pages5
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2006


  • Hospitalized medical patients
  • Malnutrition
  • Nutritional assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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