In-Patient Nutrition for Hospitalized Children: Reflections from a Nursing Student
With so much press devoted to America’s obesity epidemic among children, it seems fundamentally counterintuitive that hospitalized children are allowed to order nutritionally bankrupt food throughout their hospital stay. From my perspective as a student-nurse in clinical rotations, ‘nutritionally bankrupt’ describes the cheeseburgers, tater tots and personal pizzas gracing the pediatric hospital menus with which I have become well acquainted.
Hospitalized children have so many freedoms intrinsically taken away to begin with. The last thing I want to do as a nurse is tell these kids they can’t choose what they want to eat for lunch. Or, as it would more likely play out, tell them what they can’t eat “riiight after this quick shot…!” As a nurse-to-be, I realize that patient education and guidance are part of my job description, but in the showdown between cold turkey sandwiches with carrots v. grilled cheese with fries, I am left somewhat powerless.
Ideally, I would like to work in a hospital where Alice Waters-inspired homemade chicken noodle soup and slow roasted organic vegetables were menu options. However, given today’s healthcare climate, I am unsure how to effectively lobby for these changes. Perhaps as a starting point, hospitals could begin stacking the deck in favor of healthy food choices by designing menus allowing for only one ‘nutritionally bankrupt’ item per meal (or better yet, per day). Thus, returning to the aforementioned showdown, our patient could order 1) a turkey sandwich with fries or 2) a grilled cheese with carrots, but would not be allowed the combination of fries AND grilled cheese. Still a long ways away from organic, herb-crusted vegetables, but it’s a start!
Ultimately, good nutrition, like good health, is about the day-to-day. Though far from impossible, institutional change takes time and costs money. So in the meantime, this future nurse will do her best to help steer obligate junk-foodies down healthier pathways.
If my future children ever get sick, I hope their doctors and nurses are thinking like you, Andrea! Oh, and for those of you who are not familiar with Alice Waters, you can read more about her here. I happen to be giving a presentation on the Slow Food Movement tomorrow in class, so I've been learning a lot about Ms. Waters and I love her thoughts on food and nutrition, and I'm dying to visit her restaurant in California someday!
Thanks again, Andrea!