A dietitian stands in portrait

Introducing… a home parenteral nutrition dietitian

Suzanne Hansen is a registered dietitian who divides her time between the home parenteral nutrition program (HPN), various gastroenterology clinics and the adult cystic fibrosis clinic at Hamilton Health Sciences’ (HHS) McMaster University Medical Centre. She has been with HHS for 27 years.

The HPN program accepts a certain number of patients from across the region each year. It sets people up to live at home with intravenous (IV) feeding, or what’s called total parenteral nutrition.

What does a HPN dietitian do?

In the HPN program, we care for up to 30 patients with intestinal failure. They have issues resulting from short bowel syndrome or bowel obstructions secondary to an underlying cancer.

Managing patients in this program is a bit like looking after a ward in the community. We teach patients and families how to start and stop the IV nutrition safely. We closely monitor their clinical status, central line status and response to total parenteral nutrition.

The HPN program sets people up to live at home with IV feeding, or what’s called total parenteral nutrition.

It’s our job to make sure we liaise with other care providers on a regular basis regarding necessary adjustments to a patient’s care plan. We also determine whether they need to continue with this program.

For the other half of my role, I manage patients with a wide range of digestive disorders that interfere with their ability to eat and drink, including Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

What do you love most about your job?

I work in a number of different clinics. When patients tell me a particular nutrition care plan has improved their overall quality of life, it is very gratifying.

HPN patients are often with us for several months or years. In the beginning, they are usually malnourished. When I see them gain weight and become physically and mentally stronger, it warms my heart. Some of them cry tears of joy over their progress.

These interactions and the relationships I develop with my patients and colleagues makes me enjoy coming to work.

HPN patients are often with us for several months or years.

What keeps you motivated at work?

Working with a devoted team of doctors and nurses keeps me motivated. They trust and support my abilities and allow me a certain amount of autonomy. We are all dedicated to delivering quality care to our patients.

Who inspires you?

I have always been inspired by my mother.

My father passed away when I was young and my mother was left to raise seven children. Despite limited finances, she encouraged all of us to pursue our career choices.

My mother was a hard worker and a great cook, and I like to believe this inherent love of food helped guide me to become a dietitian.