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Nurse Practitioners to Patients: Can We Talk?

New Survey Shows NPs Want to Educate Patients About Dietary Supplement Usage

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 10, 2020 - Eighty-five percent of nurse practitioners agree that one of the roles of healthcare professionals is to provide their patients with information about dietary supplements, according to new research from the "Life…supplemented" 2009 Healthcare Professionals (HCP) Impact Study.  

"Supplements can be overlooked, but they shouldn't be," says Barbara Dehn, RN, MS, NP with Women's Physicians in Mountain View, Calif. and advisor to the "Life…supplemented" program. "Nurse practitioners are very interested in integrative healthcare options, looking at the overall wellness picture, and figuring out how we focus on health maintenance and preventive approaches.  I recommend my patients start with the basics: eat right, incorporate vitamins and other supplements, and exercise regularly."

Nurse Dehn is not alone.  According to the study, nurse practitioners are personally incorporating the three pillars of health into their own lives:  84 percent said they try to eat a balanced diet, 95 percent take dietary supplements, and 64 percent exercise regularly.

Ninety-six percent of nurse practitioners recommend supplements, and their reasons are varied-most often for bone health (63 percent recommend for this reason), overall health and wellness (47 percent) and to fill nutrition gaps (44 percent). 

Not only are they recommending supplements to their patients, but they're talking about them.  Eighty-one percent of nurse practitioners personally inquire about which supplements patients are taking (and only three percent state that no one in the practice inquires about supplements).  When asked who brings up the subject of supplements most often, 55 percent of nurse practitioners say they personally ask, with 28 percent crediting nurse practitioners and patients equally, and only 17 percent crediting solely the patient.

Eighty-three percent of nurse practitioners say their patients are generally comfortable telling them about their supplement usage, but a smaller percentage (70 percent) feel their patients are generally honest and forthcoming about their use of dietary supplements.

"That dynamic has to change," says Nurse Dehn, of the latter statistic.  "I hope that patients know how open we are to hearing about their supplement use, especially if they're on medications.  This is so we can ensure they're aware of potential interactions with their drugs, but equally as important, so we can help address any nutrient depletions caused by medications.  At the same time, nurse practitioners, doctors, and all healthcare professionals have to do a better job being open to listening to patients when it comes to supplements.  These are mainstream products, and it's our job to help our patients figure out which supplements best meet their individual needs."   

So which supplements are nurse practitioners taking?  Some examples include: multivitamins (79 percent) and calcium (63 percent); specialty supplements, such as Omega 3/fish oil (48 percent) and glucosamine/chondroitin (18 percent): and herbals/botanicals, such as green tea (23 percent); and fiber (17 percent).  

"Patients should feel free to initiate the conversation about living a healthy lifestyle. Taking a proactive stance towards personal wellness is the best way to ensure optimal health for the future," says Nurse Dehn.  

Consumers can take that first proactive step by filling out "My Wellness Scorecard," an online, free interactive tool that, once completed, provides an initial personalized wellness assessment with realistic steps to take toward better health. Individuals can take their results to a nurse practitioner or other healthcare professional, who can help develop a wellness regimen that works for them.

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Methodology:  Results from the 2009 "Life…supplemented" HCP Impact Study went public in December 2009 and comprise three separate surveys - (300) nurse practitioners, (300) pharmacists and (300) registered dietitians. Margins of sampling error at a 95 percent confidence level are +/- 5.7 percentage points for each of the groups of healthcare professionals surveyed. A nominal honorarium was given to each healthcare professional for completing the survey. Ipsos Public Affairs conducted the survey online. The first "Life…supplemented" HCP Impact Study of physicians, OB/GYNs and nurses was conducted online in November 2007. The second study of cardiologists, orthopaedic specialists and dermatologists was conducted online in September 2008. 

About the "Life…supplemented" HCP Impact Study: The study is part of the "Life… supplemented" consumer wellness campaign, which is dedicated to driving awareness about the mainstream use of dietary supplements as an integral part of a proactive personal wellness regimen that combines  a healthy diet, supplements and exercise. The study evaluates the personal attitudes and use of dietary supplements by healthcare professionals and whether their attitudes toward supplements affect their clinical behavior and recommendations to patients. The "Life…supplemented" campaign is managed by the CRN Foundation, an educational affiliate of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the leading trade association for the dietary supplement industry. For more information: www.lifesupplemented.org

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