The provision of appropriate nutritional care in care homes is a priority for health services in England. There is limited evidence demonstrating the role of dietitians within older people care homes. This study explores the experiences of dietitians working with care homes for older people in England.
A qualitative study using semi-structured face-to-face or telephone interviews was conducted. Criterion and snowball purposive sampling recruited six dietitian participants. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. A reflexive diary was completed, and data analyses followed interpretative phenomenological analyses. Constant comparison, code–recode audits, independent coding by a supervisor, supervisory support and peer review were used to promote rigour.
Two key themes and three subthemes were identified: Theme 1 is collaboration with multidisciplinary team (MDT) professionals and its two subthemes are as follows: using support strategies (pathway/standards implementation, training/education and resident dietetic assessment) and delivering value (by benefitting more residents, demonstrating unique dietetic skills, nutritional prescription savings and meeting other professional’s knowledge gap). Theme 2 is communication with MDT professionals and its subtheme is the understanding of the dietitian’s role and of nutritional care.
Dietitians believe that they play a key role in supporting care homes with nutritional care, identifying themselves as experts and leaders, working with MDT professionals. The findings highlight the importance of a consistent approach to managing nutrition and the need for dietitians to share outcome data to improve the limited evidence-base. There is a need to agree a defined dietetic service provision to care homes in England.