Roger Watson, Editor-in-Chief
Are protected mealtimes worth the effort? My only involvement in a study in one of our local hospitals suggested they made no difference to nutrition. However, meals are more that just nutrition; they fulfil important social and, as this article discusses, existential functions.
The study is Danish by Beck et al. (2017) titled: 'Supporting existential care with protected mealtimes: patients’ experiences of a mealtime intervention in a neurological ward' and published in JAN. The aim of the study was: 'to explore the experiences of patients who were admitted to the neurological ward during an intervention – inspired by Protected Mealtime – that changed the traditional mealtime practice.' Protected mealtimes are times when any unnecessary interruptions by staff such as doctors or therapists is prevented during mealtimes to allow patients to eat peacefully and undisturbed. Interviews were held with 13 patients to find out what their experiences of protected mealtimes was.
Patients were positive about the experience of protected mealtimes and one said: 'They introduced what they call Quiet Please. Well, with that. . . you feel the vacuum of mealtime. That is where it all slows down. You get a break and get a refresher on what [the doctors] had been saying to us.' Another patient said: 'Before the project started, I think there was much more turmoil. I did not think about it, but when they started the project, you could feel the present. The turmoil was really uncomfortable, especially after you had tried the other thing. The authors concluded: 'Patients felt that mealtimes were meaningful and nourishing events that provided a calming and pleasant environment that made them feel embraced and recognized as humans.'
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BECK M., BIRKELUND R., POULSEN I. & MARTINSEN B. (2017) Supporting existential care with protected mealtimes: patients’ experiences of a mealtime intervention in a neurological ward. Journal of Advanced Nursing doi: 10.1111/jan.13278