May 5, 2020
CHICAGO – Health care teams are working to comfort and treat patients with the novel coronavirus COVID-19 including helping them breathe and providing nutritional support.
Registered dietitian nutritionists are an integral part of the health care team managing the nutrition and hydration needs of patients.
"Patients admitted into the hospital for COVID-19 might be meeting a registered dietitian nutritionist for the first time, but RDNs have been collaborating with physicians, nurses and other health care providers to help save lives during this pandemic," said registered dietitian nutritionist Cordialis Msora-Kasago, a Los Angeles-based national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
"RDNs provide medical nutrition therapy, which involves assessing the nutritional needs of patients and creating an individual nutritional plan to meet those needs as they recover," Msora-Kasago said. "Some patients can eat and drink on their own, while others might need to receive nutrition and hydration through feeding tubes or veins."
Registered dietitian nutritionist and past Academy Spokesperson Nadine Pazder assesses the nutritional status of people with COVID-19 symptoms who are admitted to Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Fla. To preserve the limited supply of personal protective equipment, Pazder works with a team of RDNs to perform nutritional assessments via phone interviews with patients, collaborating with the nursing team and reviewing medical records provided by physicians and other health care providers.
"Since the current treatment for COVID-19 is supportive care, screening for nutritional deficiencies and formulating individual nutritional plans becomes an important strategy to help support a patient’s immune system," Pazder said. "Based on the nutritional assessment, we are able to make recommendations for healthful foods and dietary supplements as needed. We also manage the administration of tube feedings for patients admitted into the intensive care unit and assess the nutritional status of those on ventilators."
People with serious underlying medical conditions, such as severe obesity, heart disease, diabetes or chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis, are at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "I've been using telehealth to help my clients monitor and control chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity," said registered dietitian nutritionist Sandra Arevalo, a national spokesperson for the Academy who lives in New York. "Telehealth enables us to continue caring for our most vulnerable clients during this time."
As the food and nutrition experts, RDNs are trained to help treat and reduce everyone's risk of chronic diseases by creating a personalized nutrition treatment plan.
Visit COVID-19 Stories and Experiences for more information on the role RDNs and nutrition and dietetics technicians, registered play on the front lines of this pandemic.
To learn more, visit the Academy's COVID-19 Nutrition Resource Center at eatright.org/coronavirus.
Representing more than 100,000 credentialed nutrition and dietetics practitioners, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at eatright.org.