As care of the critically ill patient grows more complex, so does the breadth of knowledge required of the intensivist to deliver quality service. Nutrition is one area of many where the complexity of care has grown and the opportunity for improving patient outcomes has become evident. The use of mnemonics has proven successful in compartmentalizing information that must be considered in complex decision-making processes. The authors propose one such mnemonic, "CAN WE FEED?" to assist in the development and initiation of early enteral nutrition therapy in the intensive care unit (ICU). Critical illness severity (C), age (A), and nutrition risk screening (N) are considered when performing a baseline evaluation of the critically ill patient upon presentation to the ICU. Wait for resuscitation (W) is a key component in the care of most critically ill patients and is an important consideration prior to the initiation of feeding. Energy requirements (E) are determined using conventional weight-based equations, indirect calorimetry, or combinations of both techniques. The more practical aspects of support that follow include formula selection (F), enteral access (E), efficacy (E), and the determination of tolerance (D). With careful consideration of these components through the use of the mnemonic "CAN WE FEED?" the intensivist can successfully implement a nutrition plan, and the clinical nutritionist can appreciate where nutrition therapy appropriately intervenes in the initial resuscitation and management of the critically ill patient.
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