Paediatric Dietetics

A review of staffing levels and activity in paediatric dietetics

Ward and O’Riordan, JHND Early View

Background

The present study was undertaken to review how much time paediatric dietitians spend in direct contact with patients and to determine what levels of staffing are available throughout paediatric dietetic departments in Ireland and the UK.

Methods

A work sampling tool was devised to capture paediatric dietetic activity for a period of 1 day. A semi-structured questionnaire was sent to paediatric dietitian managers to provide demographic information on their facility.

Results

Fourteen questionnaires were returned by paediatric dietitian managers and 86 work sampling tools were returned for analysis by dietitians working in the various departments. Paediatric dietitians spend 23% of the working day in direct patient contact, although up to 58% of the day in direct patient-related activities, of which communication comprised 25.2%. Staffing levels are below clinical recommendations in four out of five specialties. National activity reports focus on the number of patient contacts but do not include information on the complexity of patient care.

Conclusions

Work sampling is a useful tool in the assessment of activity in healthcare. Inadequate staff levels and limitations in activity reporting in paediatric dietetics will affect estimations for future service developments. Information obtained from the present study could contribute to the supply analysis of a workforce planning exercise in paediatric services in the future.

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