Advanced Nutrition Should Be a Core Course
Unhealthy diet is increasingly recognized as a risk factor for chronic diseases (McEwen, 2018). Therefore, dietary modification is an essential component of prevention and treatment. The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) has been used to lower blood pressure for the past 20 years (Marcel & Smith, 2018). Today, whole food plant-based diets are gaining popularity in preventing and even reversing cardiovascular disease (Kahleova, Levin, & Barnard, 2017). From low-fat diets to individualized eating plans, a focus on nutrition can improve health outcomes. So, why isn’t nutrition a core course in most advanced practice nursing programs?
Now, to be fair, basic nutritional principles are usually threaded throughout nursing curricula. Undergraduate students take nutrition as a nursing course or prerequisite for nursing school. Nutrition content is then revisited in core and specialty courses as students progress through undergraduate coursework. But what happens when it comes to graduate and advanced practice programs? While nutrition content is integrated into graduate courses as well, it is rarely a standalone course in these programs.
Graduate nursing programs – particularly advanced practice tracks – often have dedicated courses for each of the essential “three Ps”: advanced pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology, and advanced physical assessment. The word advanced in front of each of these subjects implies that content is taken to the next level. Students build on what they learned in pathophysiology, pharmacology, and physical assessment from their undergraduate training. They are given an opportunity to demonstrate their new, advanced skills in the clinical setting.
Nutrition should be another advanced course in graduate nursing programs. Like the “three Ps”, it could be called advanced nutrition or nutrition for the advanced practice nurse. This type of course would review and build upon undergraduate nutrition content. The course would emphasize dietary approaches for preventing and treating common chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Students would learn to integrate dietary assessment and teaching strategies into every client interaction, ultimately improving health outcomes.
Future research should focus on the role of advanced practice nurses, such as nurse practitioners, in enhancing client education about diet and nutrition. Graduate nursing programs could pilot an advanced nutrition course and collect data on student outcomes. Nursing accrediting bodies and national regulatory organizations should also be engaged in this conversation. Nutrition is an important part of client care – more so today than ever (McEwen, 2018). Let’s give advanced practice nurses the educational preparation they need to lead the way in dietary management and prevention of disease.
Kahleova, H., Levin, S., & Barnard, N. (2017). Cardio-metabolic benefits of plant-based diets. Nutrients, 9(8).
Marcel, C. B., & Smith, N. R. M. C. (2018). DASH diet. CINAHL Nursing Guide.
McEwen, B. (2018). The impact of diet on cardiometabolic syndrome. Journal of the Australian Traditional-Medicine Society, 24(2), 72–77.