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IrSPEN 2021: The Role and Reality of Nutrition Support

The 2021 IrSPEN conference was a wealth of insights, information and inspiration. As a newly qualified dietitian, the conference reinforced how important nutritional support is across so many different clinical areas, in whichever form it may take. However, my key takeaway was around the necessity of establishing effective collaborations between the full multidisciplinary team (MDT) and decision makers to ensure that treatments involving nutritional support are established and supported by clinical pathways.

Throughout the first day of the conference, experts from across the globe came together and presented clear cut evidence for the benefits of nutritional interventions. In conditions such as sarcopenia and Parkinson’s disease (PD), the provision of oral nutritional supplements (ONS) was associated with;

  • Improved muscle function, strength and performance (when combined with exercise interventions) in the former, and
  • Improved muscle strength, physical function and preserved muscle mass in the latter.

The prevalence of malnutrition, and incidence of weight loss, in patients suffering from acute respiratory distress (ARDs) was particularly eye-opening. However, as highlighted by Dr Peter Collins, the concurrent loss of muscle mass cannot be managed during the acute phase of illness, and therefore whilst many patients are provided with nutritional support whilst in hospital, a more robust transfer of care into the community is required for these patients to support recovery.  

Dr Peter Collins presenting on Nutrition Support and the pathway "Managing Malnutrition in COPD"

Finally, as someone just about to enter the workforce as a dietitian, the Fresenius Kabi ‘Patient Perspectives and Insights’ Symposia event was the highlight of my conference experience. It can be easy to forget, especially when training to be a dietitian (and focused on getting through placement!) that the interventions we develop are more than treating a patient or condition ‘correctly’; they impact the person receiving them. Hearing about the effects home parenteral nutrition can have on patients who require it, and the positive benefits they’ve gained from having access to this intervention, was extremely inspiring and motivating. It was also a reminder of the amount of effort, training and time required to manage nutrition support interventions like parenteral nutrition at home. I’ll be taking these insights and applying them throughout my dietetic career.