Refeeding syndrome and student dietitians

Agreement between student dietitians’ identification of refeeding syndrome risk with refeeding guidelines, electrolytes and other dietitians: a pilot study

Matthews et al., JHND Early View


Limited research exists concerning how consistently and accurately student and newly-graduated dietitians are identifying refeeding syndrome risk in hospitalised patients. The present study aimed to determine the consistency of students’ and newly-graduated dietitians’ classification of refeeding syndrome risk, as well as agreement with the application of comparison tools such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines, patients’ electrolytes and supplementation, and clinical dietitians previously surveyed.


Recently-graduated and final-year Griffith University dietetics students were invited to complete an online survey. The survey questioned demographics and asked respondents to classify the level of refeeding syndrome risk (i.e. none, some, high, unsure) in 13 case studies. Electrolytes and supplementation data were sourced from electronic patient records. Chi-squared tests, t-tests and linear regression analyses were conducted.


Fifty-three eligible people responded [n = 53 of 112, mean (SD) age 26 (4) years, 89% female, 34% graduates]. Respondents’ answers were generally more consistent and more likely to agree with comparison tools when two tools showed the same level of refeeding syndrome risk (49–98%, β = 0.626–1.0994, P < 0.001) than when they differed (11–49%). Respondents’ level of agreement with refeeding identification guidelines, electrolyte levels, supplementation and dietitians previously surveyed did not differ by graduate status, degree level, clinical placement status or having read refeeding syndrome guidelines recently (P > 0.05).


Students’ and new graduates’ identification of refeeding syndrome risk improved when there was consistency between guidelines, electrolytes and dietitians’ responses. More research is needed to improve the evidence behind refeeding guidelines, with the aim of enhancing the accuracy and consistency of assessment.

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