It’s been only recently that people seem to even really know what dietitians are. When I told people I was studying dietetics in school I used to get a lot of “uhhh….that has something to do with nutrition, right?”. Even now people are often surprised when I explain what it is I actually do at my jobS…I have two… There are so many options for dietitians, which is one of the things I love about it. I work part-time as a clinical dietitian and also work as an outpatient dietitian in a doctor’s office.
So what does that mean? What do dietitians actually do? First of all there are certain criteria you have to meet and things you have to do to obtain your license/registration and become an RD:
Registered Dietitians (RDs) are…
Food and nutrition experts who have met the following criteria to earn the RD credential:
– Completed a minimum of a bachelor’s degree at a U.S. regionally accredited university or college and completed course work approved by the Accreditation Council of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
– Completed an ACEND-accredited “supervised practice program” (aka internship) at an approved hospital or university, etc. After applying and “matching” with an internship, (talk about the most stressful few months of my life!) these internships are usually about 8 to 12 months long.
– Passed the national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration [CDR]. (Okay, I lied. THIS was the most stressful time of my life).
– Complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration throughout their careers.
There are kind of three main areas of dietetics: clinical, community and food service. I work mostly in the clinical setting but sort of in the community setting as well. So as far as day to day…
For me, as a Clinical Dietitian I basically…
Educate patients about nutrition and disease-specific diet needs. Create “nutrition care plans” including what is called “medical nutrition therapy” this is basically our nutrition plan for patients. It includes things like specific dietary needs, calculating tube feeding and IV feeding requirements and working with the doctors, nurses, pharmacy, etc. to determine overall needs of the patients.
As an Outpatient Dietitian at the doctor’s office I basically…
Counsel patients specific to their nutritional needs. The clinic I work at treats specifically “Emergency Responders” so all my patients are police officers and fire-fighters. I do a lot of weight loss , heart disease and diabetes counseling. I also create handouts and educational information and I am starting to work on a wellness program where I’ll get to teach healthy cooking classes and maybe do grocery store tours, should be pretty fun!
If you’re interested in more about what RD’s do, here a longer list. It’s not a complete list but it’s got most of the basics of each area and possible places to work.
- Long-term care centers
- Rehab facilities
- Doctor’s offices
- Dialysis centers
- Diabetes centers
- Private practice (general or specialty nutrition counseling)
2. Community/Public Health
- Sports nutrition (working for sports teams or university athletic departments)
- Health department (WIC program, restaurant inspections, etc)
- Public policy (working on governmental food programs, public health programs etc.)
- Schools, Universities, Corporations/Companies (wellness program planning, etc.)
- University (nutrition/dietetics professor – shout out to Dr. Nyland!)
- Food Industry – “Counsels” (Beef counsel, Dairy counsel, etc. working on promotion, etc.)
- Research areas (pharmaceutical companies, universities and hospitals directing/conducting experiments to answer nutrition questions, etc.)
3. Food Service
- Hospitals, again (food production management – patient meals, staffing, ordering, etc.)
- Food-service and Restaurant Companies (menu planning, nutrition analysis, consulting with chefs, etc.)
- Food production companies (recipe/food development, monitoring nutrition accuracy, etc.)
- Schools (school meal programs, menu creation, etc.)
- Correctional facilities (yep, jail…meal planning, food preparation management)
…that was a lot of etc.’s but you get the idea.
And just for all my RD friends out there. I though you’d find this amusing.