Clinical Dietitian, Career Video from drkit.org



bye-bye my name is Laura and I work as a clinical dietitian basically in a day-to-day environment I create a list of patients that I'm going to see based on a number of triggers that maybe lab values or their dietary intake or whether or not they need some sort of dietary education I do a lot of face-to-face visits with patients where I might educate them on cardiac diet or low sodium or we might be talking about diabetes or gluten-free even diets I also work in the ICU which is the intensive care unit where I do a lot of tube feeds which is where we feed patients through their nose into their stomach because they're unable to eat in the normal manner or we even feed them with a product called TPN which is where we feed them into their veins and their arms or into their neck and also because they can't eat orally I would say we work about eight hours a day eight to nine hours a day depending on the the patient care load and about 40 hours a week in my particular setting I have a lot of flexibility so if I need to come in a little bit later in the morning I can and just stay a little bit later in the evening or vice versa come in a little bit earlier and leave a little earlier so it could work well for people who have children or who have a number of different interests or what to work different jobs also a lot of consulting work is available for clinical dieticians I also do some work at a dialysis clinic where I see the same twenty patients once a month and we discuss how they're eating and what they're eating and how that affects their laboratory values in their general day-to-day help and I kind of help them choose foods that would be more appropriate for their clinical condition the stress level is pretty moderate I wouldn't say that I ever feel like there's an emergent dietary requirement but every now and then it can get a little bit heated if you're having a confrontation with a physician or with a nurse about what you think would be the best course of action for the patient when I'm consulted on a patient there's kind of a list of activities that I have to do before I can actually actually visit the patient first I'll need to check their charts and read up on their medical history and make sure that I'm aware of any conditions that may be affecting their nutritional status I also read up on what other ancillary groups are doing that might include physical therapists or respiratory therapists are usually touch base with a nurse because we are working in a clinical environment Ament and majority of our patients are elderly so they may or may not be able to communicate with us the way a normal person on the street would be able to so I'll communicate with the nurse and make sure that the patient is appropriate for a visit then I'll go into the room and discuss with the patient if they're having any problems with the menu if they're having any problems with their diet do they have any questions maybe we need to adjust their menu or the texture of their food so it makes it easier for them to eat and provide any education at that time if they if they have any questions okay to become a clinical dietitian you're going to need to get a bachelor's in science and nutrition Dietetics from an American Dietetic Association approved university or college they do have some online ones available but the majority of students go to an actual in place College of brick building the course load is very scientific you can be taking a lot of biology's anatomy physiology chemistry courses so if any of those are kind of daunting muscle on through if you're really into nutrition because they are very important and what we do in our clinical environment you might also be required to do an internship if you want to actually get your registered dietitians license you can just get your masters of nutrition and you can work at different facilities like WIC which is women infants and children which is a government program and work as a counselor in nutrition there and you might be able to do some other dietary things with just a nutrition degree however if you want to be a registered dietician and work in a clinical setting you're going to need a license which means that you'll have to go through the internship which are provided again by numerous colleges they are an added expense they range in price from $5,000 to $10,000 and they last anywhere from six months to two years the two-year internships you also receive a master's in them at the end doesn't have a big financial benefit in the job market but it could be an interesting facet of particularly if you want to go into research or into the university world where you want to be a professor licensure is regulated nationally and you require to sit for an exam kind of like a board to get your licensure and then also you're going to have state licensure so that's just a fee that you pay to your Alabama or Mississippi or Georgia or wherever you're located state regulators and they will offer you a document that says that you're licensed to work legally in the state and that comes up every year there'll be credits continuing education credits that you'll have to continue to have to continue your licensure over a year's period or five years period then you'll have to check in and turn those in to your regulating organization every five years so that you know that you've got your documentation to practice legally as far as skills needed some basic computer skills are always very important power pulling a Microsoft word comes in handy you're going to be doing a lot of presentations particularly in the community and a PowerPoint is always a nice added bonus also you need to be a little bit outgoing and not be afraid to speak up you are the nutrition expert when you get your license and you're going to be the one who is advocating for your patients nutritional side so if you need to discuss this with a physician or a nurse to get orders in place that would benefit the patient you need to have that forefront and that ability to really communicate and get your point across okay the best parts of my job are that I get to interact with people every day I get to interact with nurses and physicians and you're only always learning new things from them because they have a completely different skill set also I get to interact with the patients that one-on-one time you really feel like you get to impact the patient's life you might be providing them with tools that they need to make sure that they're managing their clinical disease as well as they can from a nutrition standpoint I also really like doing all of the PowerPoint presentations in the community work so I enjoy health fairs and I enjoy going out in the community and sharing samples and good nutrition and basic general health with the regular community there are some more parts of my job and those would probably be that I don't have a whole lot of authority within the clinical setting so I have to get it through a physician or through a nurse in order for it to actually take effect with the patient so it requires a good amount of communication and really sticking to my guns and making sure that I'm following out to make sure that the orders been put into place other than that I really don't feel like there's anything negative about the job okay if you're thinking about going into clinical Dietetics make sure your science focused when you're taking classes and your college degrees you really want to make sure you're paying attention to all of your nutrition classes all of that information is will be crucial to you in the clinical setting particularly classes called medical nutrition therapy memorize all of those facts know all of those labs know of all of those conditions because you're going to be dealing with it on a daily basis also if you're not sure that nutrition is the route you want to go call up a hospital and see if you can't shadow a dietitian around for a day and see what they actually do in a day-to-day environment they're usually pretty willing to have someone come on they like students we like interns so we'll be happy to host you also make sure that you're ready for a commitment you do have that internship that follows the degree so you're going to be in it for five years before you're ready to work to make sure you have the time and ability to get through those years if you're going into college you also want to make sure that you're not just focused on your classwork as important as that is and you really do need to maintain a good GPA and make sure you know all the information you want to make sure you're getting leadership roles research positions you're heading up clubs and organizations you're getting a lot of outside experience it's going to make you way more competitive in the internship environment because the internships are incredibly competitive there are not enough slots in the nation to enlist all of the students that actually graduate every year with a nutrition Dietetics degree and if you only have those classes behind you even if you have a 4.0 you may not be as competitive as someone else who has a lot of work experience or research experience not going on behind them as well so make sure you're really focused on a whole broad picture and making yourself a very well-rounded student

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