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COVID-19 challenges provide “food for thought” for dietary pros

March 18, 2021

NCH dietitians Dipti Shah, Lisa Borrelli and Elizabeth Voyles share their healthy – and less healthy – indulgences.

Many healthcare heroes have been highlighted during the pandemic. Although the focus often falls on the doctors and nurses working directly with COVID patients, there are also many in healthcare acting quietly behind the scenes. One set of these heroes includes the clinicians responsible with ensuring NCH’s COVID-19 patients receive proper nutrition to help them heal.

NCH clinical dietician Katherin Wong, MS, RD, LDN, explained how the role of dietary experts shifted during the pandemic. “One of our greatest challenges has been quickly learning new information about nutrition for COVID-19 patients and adjusting appropriately. Critical COVID-19 patients who are placed on ventilators have increased calorie and protein needs and sometimes cannot tolerate their tube feedings, so it can be a challenge to meet their nutrition needs.”

“At the start of the pandemic, we were limited to providing care over the phone, since we did not go into COVID patients’ rooms in order to reduce exposure and to assist with preserving PPE. We much prefer visiting patients in person at the bedside, and it was difficult to obtain information over the phone, but we adapted,” said Wong.

“In some patients, the virus causes increased nutrient needs, taste changes and shortness of breath which can impact a patient’s nutritional status and how much they are able to eat or drink,” Wong shared.

The new challenges, in turn, led to increased communication and innovation. “As an inpatient dietitian, we had to find creative ways to get our work done in new ways, especially on COVID-19 floors. I became a student all over again studying this novel coronavirus and its impact on patients’ nutrition,” said Dipti Shah, RDN, LDN, CDCES, clinical dietitian with NCH Nutrition and Food Services. “We had to find new ways to meet the patients’ needs, particularly when there were shortages of tube feeding formulas and equipment.”

The treatment and care for patients with COVID-19 has come far in this one year. Behind-the-scenes heroes like NCH nutrition specialists make a difference with every patient they encounter.