I have met a lot of people that do not have any idea what a dietitian does. After being a dietitian for over two years, I still have some friends/family members that think I help prepare food in the hospital kitchen. Other people think of dietitians as “the food police” that tell people what to eat. I think this misconception has a lot to do with the fact that there are so many areas that a dietitian can choose to work. I thought it would be interesting to talk about what it means to be a dietitian (RD) here on my blog.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a dietitian is a food and nutrition expert. In order to become a registered dietitian, you have to obtain a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and complete an accredited dietetic internship which usually lasts about one year. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I completed a combined Master’s program and internship, which is also an option. Immediately after your internship, you are eligible to take the RD exam. If you pass this exam, you are officially a registered dietitian!
Now let’s talk a little bit about the different areas that a dietitian can work. There are many paths that a registered dietitian can take after passing the RD exam. Some dietitians work in the clinical field of dietetics. This includes hospitals, nursing homes and doctor’s offices. I am currently a clinical dietitian. In this field, a dietitian provides medical nutrition therapy to individuals with certain medical conditions. RDs in this field are usually responsible for determining tube feeding formulas and rates and assisting with determining the needs of individuals receiving nutrition through an IV. The RD is also responsible for ensuring that residents or patients are fed a nutritionally appropriate diet at every meal. In this area, a dietitian will likely work with both patients that are hospitalized or in the nursing home and outpatients that are referred to you by medical providers. RDs may also teach group classes that help prevent diabetes, encourage weight loss or teach people the basics of nutrition.
Another area that a dietitian can work is in community nutrition. Dietitians working in this area typically develop programs and teach people in different communities about food and nutrition. This field is very broad and includes many different areas. Working with mothers and children through WIC is one example of what a dietitian might do in this area.
Food service management is another choice for dietitians. If you work in food service management, you could work at several different locations such as school districts, hospitals, prisons, nursing homes or restaurant chains. In this field, the dietitian may be responsible for buying food, creating a budget, designing appropriate menus and ensuring that the kitchen staff adheres to food safety practices. The dietitian may also be responsible for managing kitchen staff or other dietitians. At the hospital where I currently work, one of the dietitians works as a clinical dietitian and is also responsible for overseeing the kitchens at the nursing home and hospital.
These are just a few of the many areas that dietitians work. Other areas include private practice, corporate wellness, military, research, academia, and marketing. One of the perks of being a dietitian is having so many different options for your career path. My favorite part about being a dietitian is being able to help people improve their health through food and nutrition! I think that it is possible for dietitians to help people achieve better health in all of the different career paths they choose.
I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about what the career path of a dietitian! I plan on doing more posts about the ins and outs of being a dietitian, so if you have any questions, feel free to comment or email me 🙂
This link will take you to a video that shows some of the different career paths of dietitians:
If you are a dietitian, I would love to hear what area you are currently working in??
Does anyone have any questions about registered dietitians?
Have a good week 🙂