Annually, 6500 cancer patients receive their care in Rochester, NY. This region is served by over 200 registered dietitians (RD's). Published data showing the number of oncology patients being supported by medical nutrition therapy from an RD is unavailable; anecdotal information indicates referral numbers are very small perhaps 1% or less. The purpose of this study was to explore RD involvement in oncology care in Rochester, NY. A survey of nutritional beliefs and practices in oncology care was mailed to 250 RD's and registered dietetic technicians with certified dietitian-nutritionist (CDN) credentials. Of the 250 questionnaires distributed, 137 (55%) surveys were filled out and returned. Data was tabulated for 96 (70%) of those returned. Excluded from tabulation were five surveys received after data entry had been completed, and 36 surveys which were deemed unusable because respondents either: marked all questions "not applicable," left the questionnaire mostly unmarked, or indicated they did not provide cancer therapy. Data was tabulated for frequency and valid percent using SPSS Student Version 8.0 for Windows. Further analysis was performed for correlation purposes using Pearson's and Kendall's tau-b analyses. Patients referred in an already-compromised nutrition status was identified as the top barrier to providing oncological therapy by 55.2 % of RD's surveyed, followed by 44.8 % of RD's indicating they were uncomfortable answering patients' questions about alternative therapies. Literature suggests to increase physician referrals, services provided by RD's must be perceived as value-added. Results from this study indicated low RD involvement in value-added services: one-third reported being involved with legislative initiatives and documenting outcomes for cancer patients, 4.1% offered group cooking classes regarding food preparation during cancer therapy, 1 1.4% offered group education classes about cancer topics other than cooking, 12.5% have investigated being part of the oncology team at their facilities. Oncology is presented here as a significant opportunity for dietitians in the Rochester community to expand their roles and strengthen their position in the healthcare system. Use of the PG-SGA is recommended for dietitians who counsel cancer patients. It serves as an easy-to-use, cost-effective, and standardized assessment tool to proactively address nutritional risk or deficit. We conclude that using this study as a guide, RD's can look at their own practice settings, identify barriers, and use strategies to improve patient care. Every RD in Rochester must participate in outcomes research and legislative initiatives, and take advantage of opportunities that exist in the community. Alliance with physicians, professional visibility, and expanded roles and responsibilities such as knowledge in alternative therapies will make it possible for RD's to provide valuable nutrition services to oncology patients. The goal is to make medical nutrition therapy, provided by a registered dietitian, a standard of care which positively affects the quality of cancer patients' lives.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Cancer--Nutritional aspects; Dietitians--New York (State)--Rochester
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Gennett, Natalie, "Role of the registered dietitian in oncology care in Rochester, NY" (1998). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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