Clinical dietitians are responsible for all aspects of patient diet and nutrition therapy in a clinical setting. This involves first assessing patient status to determine nutritional and dietary needs. They then identify medical goals and develop a nutritional plan that helps patients improve their health. Once a plan has been implemented, clinical dietitians monitor patients and make adjustments to their dietary recommendations as needed. They work with both patients and their families to teach healthy eating habits, encourage program adherence, and develop customized diets for cultural, religious, and/or income-restricted individuals. At the conclusion of their assistance, clinical dietitians provide exit counseling or long-term planning and advice to ensure healthy living for the patient once they are no longer under the dietitian’s care.
Clinical dietitians generally work full time in a clinical or hospital setting. They have direct patient contact on a regular basis, working closely with patients and family to develop and monitor diet plans. Clinical dietitians also work closely with other medical personnel to assess patients’ nutritional needs and to give and receive feedback on their progress. They may travel, seek additional training, and attend conferences, as they must keep current with developments in nutritional research to provide the best patient care.
Generally, clinical dietitians are required to hold a bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition, dietetics, or a related field. They must then complete a training program or internship under the supervision of a registered dietitian. Certification as a registered dietitian (RD) and state certification as a licensed dietitian/nutritionist (LDN) is required upon completion of their training programs. Most clinical dietitians must have experience in a patient care environment, typically a year or more.
Clinical Dietitian Tasks
Counsel individuals and groups on basic rules of good nutrition, healthy eating habits and nutrition monitoring.
Screen, assess and evaluate nutritional needs, diet restrictions and current health plans to develop and implement dietary-care plans and provide nutritional counseling.
May monitor food service operations to ensure conformance to nutritional, safety, sanitation and quality standards.
Advise patients and their families on nutritional principles, diet modifications, food selection and preparation.
Consult with physicians and health care staff to determine nutritional needs and diet restrictions of patient.