Topeka hospital serves up focus on improved nutrition

A Topeka hospital worker recently earned national honors for efforts to ensure patients are eating the right things.
Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 10:24 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - You are what you eat, and a Topeka hospital worker recently earned national honors for efforts to ensure patients are eating the right things.

Shelley Carley, Stormont Vail’s clinical nutrition manager, says nutrition is part of the prescription to get you well.

“Nutrition is such a huge part of what a patient needs in order to improve their quality of life,” she said.

Shelley and her team coordinate meals for the hospital’s approximately 250 patients a day, assessing every patient who comes through the doors.

Studies show 20 to 50 percent of people admitted to hospitals nationwide are malnourished, making them less able to fight off or recover from illness.

“There’s so many different reasons why a person might not want to eat. They’re not feeling well. They’re having a swallowing difficulty. There could be an acute disease or a chronic disease or substance abuse. Even perhaps when they’re not in the hospital, they don’t even have the money to buy groceries,” Shelley said. “Our dieticians are trained to look for that, whether it’s social or clinical.”

Once reasons are identified, Shelley and her team work with hospital staff and outpatient clinics to cut through any barriers to good nutrition.

“We have nutrition supplements we can use. If they need tube feeding, we have those on hand,” Shelley said. “(With our menu), we try to gear it toward what our patients will be more likely to select, because those items on the menu are nutritionally sound.”

Shelley’s been recognized previously for her mentorship efforts. This month, she was named one of four winners nationwide of the Abbot Nutrition Malnutrition Award from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation. Plus, she received the Spirit of Progress award for health care from Sodexo, the company through which Stormont contracts for nutrition services. It’s Sodexo’s highest honor.

Shelley says it’s all thanks to her team.

“It takes every single discipline. It can’t be one individual. It takes everyone. The saying that Stormont has - ‘we together’ - definitely fits into this program,” she said.

While the awards are nice, Shelley says the job serves up satisfaction every day.

“I can go home and know that either myself or my team members have helped an individual be more stabally sound nutritionally,” she said. “It’s just so rewarding to know that.”

Shelley wanted to recognize her team members - Deanna Anderson, Sydney Cochran, Melissa Moore, Kim Nelson and Karen Wellman - as well as their manager, Ed Hoss.

They work with both hospital and outpatient clinic patients on education and connecting with community resources to ensure good nutrition continues at home, which could keep patients from coming back to the hospital.