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KSC Nutritionist Interviewed About Patient Safety

KEENE, N.H. 1/31/02 - Pamela Smith, director of nutrition programs at Keene State College, was interviewed for an article on improving patient safety in the newsletter “Briefings on Patient Safety,” published by Opus Communication in Marblehead, Mass. “Briefings on Patient Safety” is distributed by subscription to healthcare organizations across the country sharing knowledge and findings in patient safety improvement with healthcare professionals.

Smith, an assistant professor in health science at Keene State for the past 10 years, was interviewed about how nutrition and wellness programs provide a unique and previously uncharted perspective in terms of patient safety and staff performance in healthcare settings. The article was published in early January.

Medical errors are a leading cause of death and disability in the United States, causing more fatalities each year than AIDS, breast cancer, and motor vehicle accidents combined, according to the Washington-based Patient Safety Institute. Each year more than one million people in the U.S. suffer from preventable medical injuries, and more than 100,000 die from them, according to a November 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine.

The Institute’s most recent report, released in March 2001, calls for immediate action to improve care - in all aspects and for everyone. “The U.S. health care system is in need of fundamental change. Americans ought to be able to count on receiving care that is safe and uses the best scientific knowledge. Between the care we have and the care we could have lies not just a gap, but a wide chasm.”

Smith’s interview touched on ways to bridge this chasm through collaboration among staff, physicians, and hospitals. Enhancing performance in problem- solving, cognitive processing, and clinical judgment can be as simple as paying attention to what and when staff eat and drink. The impact of nutrition on the behavior and professional accountability of healthcare staff can be enormous. Stress and high demands placed on today’s healthcare workforce can be mitigated by acknowledgement and support in terms of regular breaks for high-quality nutrition intake. The successful equation includes fundamental education on how staff can make the best eating choices plus strategies the institution can implement to support those choices.

Smith will teach the course “Nutrition, Learning, and Behavior” in April through Keene State’s Continuing Education Office. The one-credit education course examines the effects of food and nutrition choices on students’ learning and behavior, and will review current research on the nutritional status of children and teens. This course will run on two consecutive Saturdays, April 13 and 27, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information about this course and other wellness and nutrition offerings, contact Keene State’s Continuing Education Office by phone at 603-358-2290 or 800-KSC-1909, by e-mail at, or on the web at

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