What is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist ?
"Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) are the food and nutrition experts who address today’s complex issues surrounding foods and nutrition." Great! Now what exactly does that mean?
RDN's are the only credentialed nutrition professionals that must meet vigorous training and educational standards which are regulated to ensure a high level of competency and understanding of the current scientific and evidence-based nutritional practices. Those academic and professional requirements include:
Fun Fact: The demand for RDNs and nutritionists is expected to grow by 20% between 2010 & 2020, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Where do RDNs work?
Probably what I love the most about being a dietitian: we work everywhere! RDNs contribute their food and nutrition expertise in a wide variety of settings throughout the community, including, but not limited to:
What is the difference between a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist?
If you are confused about the addition if the "N" to the original credentials of a Registered Dietitian (RDN), let me explain. The addition of the of the word "nutritionist" was recently introduced by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Commission on Dietetics Registration as a way to more effectively communicate the role of the dietitian in addressing all areas of wellness as well as treatment of conditions through Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT). Every Registered Dietitian is a Nutritionist, but not every Nutritionist is a Registered Dietitian. To be a RDN, you must meet the vigorous and specific educational and professional requirements, which sets RDNs apart from the term "nutritionist," which only requires a master's degree in nutrition.
What are the duties of a RDN ?
The duties of a RDN vary based on practice setting. In hospitals, RDNs work to provide complex nutrition assessments for critically ill patients to identify their nutritional needs. Many patients in the hospital setting are malnourished at admission, and RDNs provide timely nutrition interventions to prevent further complications and optimize their time to recovery. RDNs provide nutrition education prior to discharge to prevent recurrent admissions, or may provide education for those newly diagnosed with a chronic disease such as Congestive Heart Failure or Diabetes.
In outpatient settings, RDNs develop community nutrition outreach programs and provide education to individuals and groups, some with very specialized nutrition needs such as high risk pregnant women at a WIC clinic, or low-income families through the Virginia Cooperative Extension. We write menus for schools, hospitals, long-term care facilities and even corporate companies! We translate nutrition research to applicable and realistic nutrition lifestyle recommendations to help individuals- whether it be to promote chronic disease prevent, athletic performance, weight loss, etc. Many dietitians are now working in food and nutrition-related business, providing health tips and shopping strategies to consumers at grocery store chains, consulting with chefs at restaurants, or even developing and marking new products!
At the university level, RDNs are employed in research conducting studies or in educating the next generation of dietitian professionals. Many RDNs (such as myself), are employed in private practice consulting with local physicians and medical groups, fitness facilities, or providing individual counseling to clients in need of nutrition guidance. I could really go on forever!
What are some of the skills that RDNs possess ?
Just as the duties of RDNs vary, so do the skill sets. It's very neat to see how every dietitian is unique and brings something different to the table. That being said, dietitians must be able to think critically on the fly, possess superior communication skills to effectively reach clientele and disseminate information, be creative, possess leadership and qualities and be willing to work effectively in a team. Many dietitians, especially with the rise in social media, are skilled in web design, photography, creative writing and recipe development.
What daily challenges do RDNs face ?
I would say the largest challenge that RDNs face on a daily basis is competing with the messages in the media and establishing our voice as health professionals. Almost daily we read articles, books and stories that are fueled by big businesses looking to market a product and skew evidence-based research. We counsel individuals who are often confused as to conflicting media messages and who have lost touch as to what is truly nutritious, and what is not. We collaborate with medical teams to ensure they are knowledgeable of evidence-based nutrition practice and supportive of our recommendations. Most importantly, we strive to encourage those we interact with that food is our friend, not the enemy, and how to establish a healthy relationship with it while properly nourishing our bodies.
It is such an honor to be a dietitian! Thanks for reading :)
I honor of National Nutrition Month, I want to share with you this picture of a few local RDNs and members of the Southwest Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics that I have the pleasure of working with! Last month, we attending Legislative Day through the Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Richmond, VA to converse with our political representatives on important nutrition related policies.
Be be sure to catch my next post, "A Month in the Life of a Dietitian," on Wednesday or Thursday!
Information represented in this post adapted from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at Eatright.org. For more information on what is a RDN, please visit these articles:
What is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?
What a RDN Can Do For You
Work Settings & Areas of Expertise for RDNs
Every Registered Dietitian Is a Nutritionist, but Not Every Nutritionist Is a Registered Dietitian
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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