How to undertake a nutritional assessment in adults
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How to undertake a nutritional assessment in adults

Carolyn Catherine Johnstone Lecturer in nursing, School of Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland

Rationale and key points

Nutritional assessment in adults should begin on first contact with the patient, and is an ongoing process that can take place over several hours or days. A comprehensive nutritional assessment involves the nurse examining the patient’s physical and psychological state, as well as considering any social issues that may affect their nutrition.

The nurse should use a variety of skills, such as observation, communication and knowledge of physiology, to inform an adult nutritional assessment. While observation skills are an essential element of a nutritional assessment, a patient’s nutritional status is not signified by their appearance alone.

The nurse should use a structured approach to assess the patient’s nutritional status. The use of screening tools can assist the nurse in performing an accurate nutritional assessment.

Unplanned weight loss is an important indicator of nutritional risk; similarly, in some patients, suboptimal oral health can have a significant effect on their ability to eat.

It is important to support adult patients with their nutritional requirements, for example if they require assistance with functional aspects of nutrition such as using cutlery and cooking.

Reflective activity

‘How to’ articles can help update your practice and ensure it remains evidence-based. Apply this article to your practice. Reflect on and write a short account of:

How this article might improve your practice when undertaking a nutritional assessment.

How you could use this information to educate your patients and colleagues on the appropriate technique for performing a nutritional assessment.


Nursing Standard. 32, 22,41-45. doi: 10.7748/ns.2018.e11016

Received: 18 September 2017

Accepted: 07 November 2017

Published in print: 24 January 2018

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software

Conflict Of Interest

None declared