Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Health Sciences


Rehabilitation Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Karen Badger


Approximately 500,000 people in the United States are affected by a burn injury and seek care every year. With medical innovation, however, the burn injury survival rate has increased to 97% in the United States. Burn survivors undergo two phases of recovery: acute and rehabilitation.With advances in burn treatment and care, the focus has shifted from the expectation of survival to improving outcomes. Nutritional care, including assessment and education, plays a major role in burn survivors’ wellness, facilitating wound healing and promoting recovery, but nutritional guidelines and polices appear limited during the rehabilitation phase,with literature suggesting nutritional assessment has historically been scarce in outpatient burn clinics.

This qualitative study explored the nutritional experience of adult burn survivors during the rehabilitation phase. An in-depth semi-structured virtual interview was used as the primary data collection method, with document analysis used as a supplementary data collection method to triangulate qualitative interview data by examining existing educational resources for the survivors. Informal observations during the Phoenix Society World Burn Congress were used as reference points when conducting interviews and interpreting data. Thirteen adult burn survivors who sustained a burn injury of at least 20% of their total body surface area within the last five years and received initial care in the United States participated in the study. Participants were from diverse age groups, gender identifications, races, marital statuses, educational levels, and from 11 different states.

Shared meanings and patterns from qualitative interview analysis that addressed the research questions were merged and categorized into themes. Participants experienced confusion about the prescribed diet, apathy towards eating during hospitalization, and the severity of hunger and excess eating post hospitalization. Moreover, participants shared that their relationships with food and nutrition changed following their burn injury as they ate to support their physical and mental wellness and developed new dietary habits. Two other themes reflected the burn survivors’ suggestions that survivors should receive individualized nutrition education by a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) and would benefit from consulting an RDN across the continuum of care. Of the 368 documents identified that addressed burn survivor educational needs, only five documents addressed nutrition-related care, reflecting a gap in this recovery area.

Findings from this exploratory study suggest that this topic warrants additional investigation and that incorporating formal nutrition education into the rehabilitation phase of burn recovery could be of value in improving the physical and mental wellness of adult burn survivors.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This study was supported by

  1. UK Endowed University Professor in Health Sciences in 2023.
  2. Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors in 2023

Available for download on Thursday, June 11, 2026