A Day in the Life of a Clinical Dietitian

Ω March 15th, 2011 Ω Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , Ω 53 Comments

Happy mid-March to all of you! Peter and I are in the midst of enjoying some skiing at an “undisclosed location” … but if you’re clever (and/or a longtime reader), you can find out where we are. Let the hunt begin!

I recall that in my last post I promised you all a day in the life of a clinical registered dietitian/RD. Jessie promises, Jessie delivers! First, however, a little about what dietitians DO in general. In my experiences talking to the random (wo)man-on-the-street, I have discovered that most people think RDs do one of the following: (A) Tell people what they CAN’T eat (i.e. “yummy” foods), (B) Tell people what they CAN eat (i.e. “healthy rabbit food” ), or (C) A combination of the above. C’mon, raise you hand if you think the above is true.  Yes, you! ;)

As you can probably guess from my rather subjective verbiage, (A) (B) and (C) does NOT encompass the scope of what an RD can do.  The title “registered dietitian” is protected because of the science-heavy education, supervised practice, and ongoing training that a registered dietitian must complete and maintain.  The title “registered dietitian” distinguishes a trained and certified RD from a “nutritionist” or “nutritional expert” or one of the other many permutations of “nutrition” that require little or no formal training.  You can read more about what an RD does on ADA’s website here.

So, where DO registered dietitians work? Just for you, my dear readers, I made up this handy little pie chart based on the American Dietetic Association‘s most recent survey of where its members work:

Snazzy, eh?

As you can see, more than a third (34%) of RDs work in hospitals, in inpatient and acute care.  I’ll be sharing my experience in inpatient care below.  A significant percentage of RDs work in clinics (12%) and community and public health programs (11%) – I wrote about my experience in community nutrition here. 11% work in extended care facilities (which was one of my first clinical dietetic experiences). RDs can work as consultants to health-care facilities (6%) or other organizations (2%). RDs can work in private practice (4%) – in which I’ll be working for my next supervised practice rotation.  And, of course, RDs can work in school foodservice (3% – I wrote about my experience in school foodservice here), or in education (5%).  RDs work in very diverse areas!

Still, the piechart is vague.  What exactly do those 34% of RDs who work inpatient actually DO? For the past six weeks, I have worked as an inpatient dietitian at a VA hospital (this experience is part of the 1200 hours of supervised practice that I need to complete before I can take the registration exam to become a registered dietitian). On a day when one of the dietitians was out and I sat on her floor, I wrote down everything I did that day (with the exception of the TPN order, which another RD put in and I observed). Also, I moved the timing of some events around to help with flow.

7:45 am: Arrival at the hospital. The parking lot is already crammed full of cars.

The VA hospital is that tall, rather imposing gray building in the back. That’s only one of the buildings.

8 am: Arrive on the floor, check computer to see how many patients have been admitted and how many nutrition consults have come in.  Prioritize patients based on time of arrival (all new inpatient admissions to the floors must be seen within 72 hours and all consults must be seen within 48 hours – yes, RDs do work weekends!).

8:15 am: Walk around the floor and check on patients’ breakfasts. Note errors and patient concerns with their trays. Correct errors if needed.  On this particular day, I also asked each patient if they wanted a non-meat option for lunch, as it was Ash Wednesday.

8:25 am: Reported which patients wanted a non-meat lunch to the kitchen in time for them to make changes to the lunch service.

8:45 am: A nurse stops me in the hall and says that a patient wants to talk to me about his trays.  I quickly review patient’s chart on the VA’s award winning computerized medical records.  Note the patient has severe ascites and is therefore on a sodium and fluid restriction. Visit pt and discuss the rationale of why he cannot have extra salt and water. After some conversation, the patient is calmer. I write down the patient’s food preferences and have one of the RDs enter his preferences into the computer system (I can’t change diets or preferences myself because I’m still a student).

9:30 am: Hop on the computer to finally start charting on my patients for the day, only to be interrupted …

9:45 am: … by a dietetic technician, registered (DTR – an essential part of the dietetics team!) calling from the kitchen about a patient whose diet order keeps changing back and forth. Review patient’s chart and recommend the correct diet for this patient. Have RD change diet.

10 am: Finally! Some time to chart on patients. I review their current diagnoses and prior medical history, as well as height, weight, blood pressure, labs, and subjective information such as appetite and nausea/diarrhea/constipation/chewing or swallowing problems. I talk to the patient to find out this subjective information, as well as make a note of how they appear (malnourished, nourished, etc., and how likely the patient will comply with diet recommendations). All this information, plus other information not mentioned, must be recorded in a professional manner in the computer charting system. The RD will make diet recommendations based on all this information. The diet may be simple if the patient has no nutritional problems, but most patients at the VA hospital must have some kind of special diet. For example, sodium-restricted diets are common due to high blood pressure or liver disease, and renal disease and failure without dialysis may require a protein restriction. There are disease-related needs for low fat diets, low protein diets, high protein diets, fluid-restricted diets, consistent carbohydrate diets, and on and on. Those diets don’t even count the tube feeds and parenteral nutrition needed for some patients.

10:45 am: As I walk to my next patient, I pause to be inspired by the posters on the wall (sorry for the glare – at least I’m still getting inspired!):

12:15 pm: Walk around the floor checking on patients’ lunch trays. A patient is irate because she received the wrong lunch tray. Talk with patient for a few minutes, then have RD call down to kitchen for late tray.

1 pm: Time for lunch! Admire roses on clinical RD manager’s desk for RD Day.

Jumping ahead a few days … at lunch, we were able to enjoy some chocolate brownies baked by one of the dietitians, Laurie, for our last day at the hospital (“our” meaning me and Brianna, another University of Connecticut student who was working in outpatient counseling at the same hospital). Here we are:

I just adore Brianna! We’ve done a lot of our supervised practice in dietetics together, and let me tell you: this girl is going to be an awesome registered dietitian!

Closeup of the goods:

Yes, it definitely tasted as good as it looks. Thanks, Laurie!

1:30 pm: Back to work! Need to make sure we get see all the patients before the day is over.

2:30 pm: Check on a TPN patient.  I won’t get into all the technicalities of nutrition support, but I will say that RDs have an important role in making sure someone who can’t eat (enough or at all) gets the nutrition he or she needs.  For example, an advanced head and neck cancer patient who can no longer safely swallow and therefore get enough oral nutrition may get a PEG placed (actually got to see one of those procedures!) – this person will get nourishment directly into the stomach. Or, a person may develop a postsurgical ileus and eventually need TPN – this person will receive nutrition intravenously. Dietetics is cool, folks.

3 pm: Keep at it! Gotta see all those patients!

Here I am with Elizabeth, one of the dietitians at the VA, who I coerced into taking a picture with me:

Thanks, Elizabeth! :D

4:30 pm: Done for the day! … as long as I’ve seen all my patients, of course …

So, what do you think? I hope you’ll agree that a registered dietitian does more than (A) (B) and (C). :)  I will miss my time at the VA hospital, but I am excited to start my next rotation with a private practice dietitian!

Please feel free to ask me any questions you have about dietetics, nutrition, whatever, and I will be happy to answer! ‘Til next time, dear reader …

Q: Have you ever met a registered dietitian? What was your experience like?

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» Filed under School » 53 Comments

53 Responses to “A Day in the Life of a Clinical Dietitian”

  • Sandy says:

    What sector do you want to work in?

    • Jessie says:

      Great question, Sandy! How about this: I’ll your question in my next post – I also need to think about my answer, too ;)

      Hope you had a great Spring Break!

  • Christa says:

    This is a kind of job I understand a lot better than having a private practice and handing out diets to people who want to lose/gain weight. It makes a lot more sense to me that the need for diaeticians must have started from hospital patient care.

    I have seen a diaetician in the past. I was trying to gain weight. But what he helped me understand is that it is not what the scales show that matters (within reasonable limits of course), as much as the quality of what you eat and the manner with which you eat it. So when I started eating more fruit and vegetables, and when I started eating more often and without multitasking while eating, I managed to be healthier. The weight gain came later and in a very natural way :) Also what helped immensely was when I started cooking my own food, that’s when I actually gained control over my diet.

    So yeah RD’s are a useful bunch on the whole, and I’m sure you’ll be a brilliant one my dear Jessie! :) :)

    • Jessie says:

      Thanks, Christa! I forgot you had seen a dietitian – I remember you telling me about the experience. I’m so glad that he was helpful (he sounds like he was a good dietitian!). Good for you, my wonderful Greek friend! :)

  • What an amazing post Jessie. I had to post about this on my new Facebook page!

    So, I’m among the minority in Community dietetics. I love my job, and wasn’t ever meant to be a clinical RD. I have met plenty of amazing ones though!

    Have fun with the entrepreneur. That’s my dream destination in life.

  • Loved seeing what your day looked like at the hospital! I took a couple nutrition classes in college and loved them. If I were younger, I may even consider going back to school… Looking forward to your recap of your next rotation!

    Hope you are having fun skiing!!!

  • LeQuan says:

    Hey Jessie!

    First of all, I must say that that white jacket definitely suits you. Looking good in it, my dear. You are one of the prettiest and cutest RD’s I’ve seen :-D. Thanks for walking us through a day of an RD. I’ve actually wondered what exactly an RD did, but felt a bit silly asking you. You couldn’t have explained it better by taking us on the job with you. I’m glad to say that I now know the difference between a nutritionist and a registered dietician. Gary actually asked me that one day and I told him I’m not actually sure, but I know Jessie is an RD. Then he asked why I didn’t ask you, and I told him I didn’t want to seem like a crazy freaky prying stalker intruding in your life (although I don’t hide it very well on FB, lol). Now I can tell him, thanks to this post. Oh, and I also learned what some new terminology too (TPN, PEG, parenteral nutrition, etc.). Felt like I was back in school studying again. Teehee. So do you get to go home early if you’ve gone through all your patience? Say if you’re done seeing everyone at 3:00, can you leave, or what do you stay around doing?
    I don’t think I’ve met an RD before, maybe during my stay in the hospital after delivery, but I don’t think so. Can’t wait to read about your rotation with a private practice dietician.
    Anyways, hope you and Peter are having a great time skiing! Be safe and take care. Stalk ya later elsewhere ;-).

    • Jessie says:

      Great questions, LeeQs! (And sorry to make you feel like you were in school again! ;) ) If you finish seeing all your patients early, there are other projects to work on – for example, the RDs have been working on the menus lately, and they were also coming up with a contest for National Nutrition Month. There’s always stuff to do at the hospital! The RDs sometimes have to stay late, but not too often. Some of the days I was working more hours because I need to compete a certain number of hours for my dietetics program, but otherwise a clinical RD’s hours are pretty regular.

      Please feel free to ask me anything, Leeqs! I already know you’re a stalker, so you’re not hiding that from me ;) But really, please do ask me anything!!

      • LeQuan says:

        Oh, I didn’t realize you replied. Usually when you reply I get it through email, but I didn’t get it this time. I just thought you were taking a very long vacation. Lol. Good thing I checked back. Sounds like RD’s have a lot waiting for them to do. That’s good though. I’d rather be a busy bee at work than have nothing to do and bored out of my mind. I’m glad you chose this path, Jessie. With your sweet and generous character (not to mention hard working), you’re really going to be quite the asset to whichever hospital or wherever you’re working at. Keep up the great work, dear!

  • Mo says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Jessie! I’ve been considering going to school to be a registered dietitian but while science interests me, I am *horrible* at it, so I don’t think it’d be a wise career choice. ;) I definitely admire you for going in that direction, though! I hear the schooling is awfully extensive and tedious!

  • ahh what a great and informative post!! wish i could have had one of those delicious brownie cupcakes with you and brianna!! so glad to see what you’re up to! :)

  • Hey Jessie,
    The RD day sounds so interesting!!! I didn’t know that RD can work in so many difference places….I really think it is a great career, since more and more people are paying attention to their diet, and it is indeed ‘saving people’s lives” :-))) Keep up the good work !

    btw, you look really cool !

  • Lauren says:

    Thanks for sharing your day Jessie! It’s so interesting to read. As you know, I’ve thought about becoming an RD and sometimes I still wonder if it’s something I want to pursue. Given my pubic health background, I’d probably want to do something more in the community, but it’s really interesting to see how diverse an RD’s work can be!!

    Your day sounds very busy but super interesting. It actually makes working inpatient sound fun. And there seems to be a lot to it! I can imagine people getting upset when you tell them they can’t eat the food they want :) Also, as a geeky side note — having worked at a VA I can say that those medical records are awesome! I love how everything is in one place and you can find patients no matter which VA they go to around the country. I really think all hospitals need to start modeling that system.

    Hope the new rotation is off to a good start!!

  • For the record I never thought dietitians did (A), (B)or (C)…I have the utmost respect for your field as well as my other friends in it. I also think that anyone that gets you as their dietitian is very lucky indeed. My mother is an RN and my dad a chef, so when I volunteered at the hospital through my childhood…guess what I pretended to be :)

  • Oh i would be happy to have a discussion with a dietitian if she’s hot like you, Jessie! Wow your day starts so early! 7:30 am I’m still in bed. It looks like you’re very much enjoying your day and that makes me smile as reading this post.

  • Melinda says:

    I would say I have serious issues if I answered no to ever meeting an RD. LOL!

    I love this post. Great review of your day. So many people have no idea what clinical is really like. Oh how I miss those days! All except the patient complaint on food, the explanation as to why and then maybe getting a consult again to re-explain to patient why they did not get what they ordered. No, the patient will not outsmart the RD.

  • Min says:

    Yay Jessie! I loved reading about your day as an RD in the inpatient setting :D Glad that your blogging has resumed too, I missed my doses of THIH!

  • FOODESSA says:

    Thanks to your post I now understand the differences in positions taken in this very interesting field.

    Jessie, you seem to be very well surrounded and I’m sure this will assist you in becoming the very best in you pursue.

    Getting sweet treats is also a nice perk ;o)

    Ciao for now and flavourful, healthy wishes,
    Claudia

  • Nicole, RD says:

    I got to see a PEG placement, too! It was…a lot to witness, but I’m so glad I have had that experience! Your day as a clinical RD sounds about right! I will say, I love renal nutrition for the flexibility of the work schedule. I can start work at 5am if I want, or anytime after that. Of course showing up to see first shift patients by 10am is necessary 1-2x a week, but I’m usually there by 8/8:30…I just like to know the flexibility is there :) And I can work as late as 9pm if there’s a 3rd shift of patients. So flexible! Teaching, not so flexible, so it all balances itself out. Great post…love this!!

  • Ameena says:

    Your day sounds hectic but so much fun! I love that you get into interact with so many different types of people – what a fabulous job.

    I did see a RD for 3 visits as I tried to get to the bottom of my food intolerances. She wasn’t able to help me though – it’s my fault! I was expecting her to magically cure me. :)

  • Joanne says:

    I love that you’ve dispelled so many of the myths/ideas around RDs! I know that hospitals can’t function without em and I, being a future clinician, I am grateful for you guys every day!

    Have fun skiing my love!

  • Monet says:

    This is one of the best posts I’ve read all week. I just loved following you around for one day. It gave me such a better picture of what an clinical dietitian does. I can’t wait to hear how your next rotation unfolds. How great that you get to work at so many different places and with so many different people. Thank you for sharing your creativity with me! I hope you have a blessed Sunday. You make me smile :-)

  • I don’t think I have any experience with a RD or meeting one. Very interesting post!! I love your snazzy pie chart! ;)

  • My daughter is an Occupational Therapist, and this sounds a lot like her training days. She got her undergrad here in Edmonton, then her Masters at Tufts in Boston. She loved that and it changed her forever. But, it was very expensive. And, we are not a rich family. Just average. So, she learned to adjust there with what she had. She is just finishing her third year of practice in the Palo Alto area. She stayed in Boston the first year and continued working where she did her final placement for a year. Then, all friends had moved west, so she followed. Loves her work. Loves it. I see you do, too. And both are closely related to one another.
    Great life you have chosen for yourself… as an educator, I love institutional work. The public needs genuine and quality care, and through the money isn’t put into these kinds of institutions government wise, the need for really good people is forever there. You have a great life ahead!
    Kudos to you for all of the hard work that has brought you to this place!
    :)
    Valerie

  • Jaylene (RD in making) says:

    Hi Jessie!

    I stumbled upon your website and was immediately captivated. I’m also on track to become a RD and am yet to experiece what you’re sharing. I’ll come back to your site again when I go through through my internship.

    I love your explaination about the difference between RD and other nutrition experts. The best and most fun one I’ve ever read!

    Jaylene

  • Nora says:

    Hello Jessie,I absolutely loved your post! I am currently and undergrad in college (sophmore.) I really want to become a dietitian and work in a hospital setting! My major is biology, what would you recommend? Do you think that I am with the right major?

    • Jessie says:

      Thanks, Nora! :)

      To become a dietitian, you need a degree in dietetics — that doesn’t mean you can’t also major in biology, but you need to make room for the classes that are required to be a dietitian! Do you have a dietetics degree at your school?

      I would read more about how to become a dietitian here: http://www.eatright.org/BecomeanRDorDTR/content.aspx?id=8143#.UFs-PhhXA6I

      It’s a great summary of what you need to do to become a dietitian!

      Good luck, and let me know if you have any more questions :)

  • Anna says:

    Hello-

    I enjoyed reading about what you do as a RD. I’ve been considering going to school for Nutrition for a while now, but have some concerns. Number one, I am bad at math and science. Number two, I tend to not like fast-paced environments. This is what’s holding me back I would say. Everyone tells me I should go for it because I had a passion for Nutrition for a few years (and there is good money to be made) but I am scared I will burn out and want something else instead.

    Any thoughts?

    -Anna

    • Jessie says:

      Hi Anna,

      There is some math and science in nutrition (mostly science), but not everyone who’s an RD is a master at both. It’s ok for them not to be your strong subjects. I know plenty of RDs who did not love the science classes. It’s up to you whether or not taking subjects like biochemistry, microbiology, and organic chemistry would be a burden. I’m a tough person to ask because I love science.

      As for fast-paced environments: not all RDs work in fast-paced environments. The best way to find out more about the profession is to talk with and shadow RDs if possible (while being respectful of their time :) ).

      A final point: being an RD does not make someone rich. There’s not a huge amount of money to be made in dietetics, and most people go into it because they have a passion for nutrition, not because they plan to make a lot of money. Just so you go into it with your eyes open :)

      Best,
      Jessie

  • Anthony says:

    Hello Jessie,

    I have also enjoyed reading your posts and learning more about the RD profession.

    From my understanding, I am part of the small minority of males interested in dietetics who study to become a registered dietitian.

    For most of my young adult life during my 20’s (I’m 34 now) I have always shown interest and passion for healthy eating habits and how food and nutrition can affect your body. I’ve always encouraged my close friends and family to eat plenty of fruits and veggies, along with a proper diet and exercise to help maintain a healthy lifestyle.

    But it wasn’t until around 2009 when I discovered that there was an actual profession for this. For the past 4 years I have been working in a large hospital as an eligibility counselor. I have direct contact with inpatients and screen them for programs that potentially help pay for their hospital visit and/or enroll them in Medicaid or Medicare. This has allowed me to observe and learn the basic flow of patient care as I work alongside RN’s, MD’s, social workers, etc., including RD’s.

    I have finally decided to return to school and pursue a degree in dietetics. I’m in the beginning stages of the coursework journey – like my first semester back since many years ago. I’m still doing my research and so far I’m still set on going for it. I’m comfortable with the expected salary, ready for the classwork challenges, excited to work with patients and hopefully make a difference in their lives.

    However, I am a little concerned about the huge gender difference. I read it’s somewhere around 97% female and 3% male in this field of study. Does this seem accurate to you from your experience? By no means does it make a difference to me but why the huge difference? Do males not “fit” into this role? And are males accepted by their female counterparts? Have you encountered or worked with any male RD’s? If so, what should I expect going in?

    Sorry for all the questions. Any info would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you kindly,

    Anthony

    • Jessie says:

      Hi Anthony,

      It sounds like you’ve done the research and know the nutrition field is for you – congratulations! Having inpatient experience will be very helpful as you embark on your education and particularly as you complete your hospital rotations.

      I’m not sure the exact percentage of practicing female/male RDs,but you are correct that the vast majority of RDs are women. However, the number of men in dietetics is growing and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recognizes this change. I’ve worked with a few make RDs, and they have always been respected by female colleagues, as well as people they work with in other professions. I would guess that many people outside the profession don’t realize it’s as heavily female as it is, and so they aren’t as surprised to see a male dietitian/nutritionist as you might expect.

      In addition, as a man in dietetics, you would bring another perspective to the profession. Men look for nutrition guidance, too, as you know. Dietetics will always welcome a dedicated, professional individual such as yourself :)

      A few male RDs who have become faces of nutrition: http://davidgrotto.wordpress.com
      http://miltonstokes.com

      Best of luck! Let me know how it goes.

      Take care,
      Jessie

  • Mickala says:

    Hey Jessie, I am currently studying Dietetics but am only in my first year of college. I am trying to figure out if I should major/minor in another area to set me apart from the rest. I am interesting in the clinical aspect of Dietetics. If you have any suggestions I would appreciate it!
    Thanks,
    Mickala

    • Jessie says:

      Hi Mickala, thanks for stopping by! In my experience, you shouldn’t need to major/minor in anything else to stand apart, but I would talk to your dietetics professors to hear what they think. Talking with and shadowing dietitians is usually more valuable :) Good luck and let me know how it goes!

  • Jada says:

    Hi! I’m currently a grade 12 student in Toronto, I’ve applied to dietetics but I’m not sure if this is exactly what I want. Is it a 9-5 job? From your post i think that all dietitians do is to check patient’s menus and make adjustments, are you happy to do that for the rest of your life?
    Is the pay really bad, even though the amount of education required is immense?
    What if I’m not good at chemistry, but have a passion for biology and physiology? Would i still succeed in this field?
    Please answer me…..I’m panicking over university options!!

    • Jessie says:

      Hi Jada, dietetics is varied – some jobs are 9-5 and some aren’t. I would read more on the “Becoming an RD” tab at the top of the page to find out more about what RDs do. I would also talk to as many RDs as you can to find out more about the field. Becoming an RD takes hard work, but if you love the field, it’s worth it. Good luck!

  • David says:

    About 7 years ago, I made an appointment with an RD. I was worried because I had gone through about 5 or 6 colds in one year, and I wanted to see an RD before I went to the doctor.

    My experience was excellent. The RD had me write down everything I ate for 1 week, and then she analyzed what I’d eaten. She immediately saw 2 problems that I wouldn’t have guessed: (1) I wasn’t eating enough calories, and (2) I was getting enough zinc.

    I never would have guessed that I wasn’t eating enough calories, because I always ate until I was full. The problem was that I wasn’t eating enough calorie-dense foods.

    The zinc part was a surprise, too. When I first became a vegan in 1991, the literature that I read emphasized the importance of iron and calcium, but never (that I could remember) emphasized zinc. Today’s vegan nutrition literature does emphasize zinc.

    I quickly modified my diet, in a way that maintained my vegan diet. I have been healthy since.

  • Dantoniah says:

    Hello Jessie.

    Thanx for the post. I am d dietitian from South Africa and I do love this field with all my heart. Well I need help, as dietitians we sometimes get calls from the hospital when they have a patient on NG or on TPN around 4:00am by the nurses for assistance and as a result we would like to do sort of overtime or be on call, so that we could get paid for such hours or work on Sundays and any other holidays. Could you please help me in motivating for an official overtime. I need something that would make them realize how important dietitians are. Please help and thank you so much hey.

    • Jessie says:

      Hi Dantoniah, I’m sorry I can’t help you with your specific dilemma. As dietitians, we advocate for our profession by doing our job and doing it well. I wish you the best of luck!

  • Giovanna says:

    Im just curious as to which university you studied at? Did you have to do a bachelor as well as a masters?

    • Jessie says:

      Hi Giovanna, I went to the University of Connecticut. I didn’t have to get a bachelor’s since I had one in another subject already, but I ended up getting one anyway. Right now, you don’t need a Master’s to become an RD, but rumor is that’s going to change.

      Hope that helps!

  • sakira says:

    I’m a junior in high school, and I’m thinking about pursuing a career in nutrtion! What undergrad classes do you recommend taking?

    • Jessie says:

      Hi Sakira, congrats on looking to prepare yourself so early! I definitely recommend a class in nutrition to see what you think of the field. Nutrition students take science classes as well, like biology, chemistry, microbiology, and biochemistry, as well as management and marketing classes :) Before you take a lot of nutrition classes, I would talk to as many RDs as you can to learn what the field is like. If you can volunteer with or shadow a dietitian, that would be even better! That way you know if the field is right for you.

      Good luck! :)

  • Doris says:

    Hi Jessie!
    I’m planning to become a RD. I’m a freshmen in college right now just finishing up my 2nd semester. I want to become an RD because I absolutely love nutrition and the science involved in it! My only concern is that I would like to know ahead of time how time consuming this career will be. From your experience, how much time did you have to invest in studying and now that you’re in your internship, how much time goes into that? I will assume it is a lot, but I would like to know from your experience as well.

    Thanks for all your help,

    Doris

  • Jessica says:

    Hi Jessie,

    I am currently a college student. I am going to be a second year at community college in the fall and am looking to transfer the following year with a major in nutrition. I want to become a registered dietitian as well and I am hoping to do clinical work. Ultimately, it would be my dream to work in a hospital with cancer patients.

    In your opinion, how was the schooling to get where you are at? Do you know of anyone who specializes in something like I mentioned? Any good advice or tips about anything I should know would be great, thanks!:)

    Jessica

    • Jessie says:

      Hi Jessica,

      There are many dietitians who specialize in working with cancer patients; in fact, you can become board certified as a specialist in oncology nutrition: http://www.cdrnet.org/certifications/board-certification-as-a-specialist-in-oncology-nutrition There is so much good that RDs can do with cancer patients.

      Your experience with the schooling will be very personal. I found it time-intensive but not difficult, but I will point out I have a strong science background. Don’t sweat it! There are people of many different backgrounds and interests going into dietetics. Working in groups and embracing the act of learning will make the journey fun :)

      Good luck!
      Jessie

  • Lorna says:

    Hi Jessie,

    I’m based in the UK, but just wanted to say thanks for the read – this is a thought provoking insight into the job. I’m a journalist but am considering retraining to become a dietitian after my mum fell ill and now needs TPN on a long term basis following an operation to remove most of her bowel.

    I can’t stress how important the role is to people who cannot absorb what they need from their food. Without a custom made daily feed my mum would not be alive! I’m so thankful dietitians are around – I had no idea about what you guys did beforehand. I’ve been researching the university course and it’s very science heavy (which isn’t my strong point) but I’m hoping to give it a go. What are your thoughts on how much science ability is needed during the course?

    Lorna :)

    • Jessie says:

      Hi Lorna,

      Best wishes for your mum, and I hope for an easy journey ahead for her. It’s not unusual to have such a large life event inspire a return to school for nutrition. It can be quite a motivation, especially during the science courses :)

      I don’t know about the UK, but in the US, dietitians-to-be take biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and microbiology. Students often find them a challenge, yet learning about these fields in the context of nutrition is often tremendously helpful (and interesting!). I always say that enthusiasm and confidence (especially the latter) will get you through many of life’s challenges, including a tricky science class. Confidence is more a state of mind than many people think.

      Best of luck!
      Jessie

  • Cecilia says:

    Hi Jessie
    I am on my last year of a DPD program and currently working part time in an office at a university (admin support for a school department). My question is – did you know of any interns that were able continue working part time to support a family and do their internship part time? How long can you take to complete the internship hours? Our program seems to not provide much information on the internship process and it’s very frustrating.
    thank you!

    • Jessie says:

      Hi Cecilia,

      Thanks for stopping by! I worked while competing by Coordinated Program, and I know of other students who did as well – however, it’s not easy! Internships are time intensive, especially if you are in a time intensive rotation. For example, when I was in community nutrition rotations, I sometimes had to drive 1-1.5 hours each way to get to my site.

      HOWEVER, I should point out that I did a CUP and not a DPD. I’m not sure how part-time arrangements work for yearlong internships, and I don’t want to give you the wrong information. Some internships are more flexible than others. I’m afraid I can’t give you a definitive answer. My recommendation (and I know it’s frustrating and not very helpful) is to talk to several internship programs in your area. They should be willing to talk with you about how their programs work – after all, it’s what they do! Ask your professors for help connecting you with programs if you need assistance.

      I hope that helps (a little)! Good luck!

      Jessie

      • Cecilia says:

        Hi Jessie
        I wanted to thank you so much for replying to my question. It is very kind of you to answer future RD’s questions and I am enjoying going through your posts. As you suggested, I have looked at programs and found a DI symposium hosted by a neighboring college this past weekend. Several programs were there answering questions about their programs and I identified two possible programs that might work for me. Thanks for your great advice!

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