Dietitians are experts in food and nutrition. They help promote good health through proper eating. They also supervise the preparation and service of food, develop modified diets, participate in research, and educate individuals and groups on good nutritional habits. The goals of the dietary department are to obtain, prepare, and serve flavorsome, attractive, and nutritious food to patients, family members, and health care providers. Nutrition professionals include registered dietitians (RD) and dietetic technician, registered (DTR).
Some RDs or DTRs call themselves nutritionists. However, some people who may call themselves a nutritionist are not registered dietitians. Sometimes the word dietitian is spelled as dietician.
Only certain countries, such as America have dietetic technicians. Dietetics technicians are not the same as dietitians in terms of responsibilities and qualifications. The majority of dietitians are clinical, or therapeutic, dietitians. Clinical dietitians review medical charts and talk with patients' families. They work with other health care professionals and community groups to provide nourishment, nutritional programs, and instructional presentations to benefit people of all ages, and with a variety of health conditions. This is accomplished by developing individual plans to meet nutritional needs.
These plans include nourishment, tube feedings (called enteral nutrition), intravenous feedings (called parenteral nutrition) such as total parenteral nutrition (TPN), diets, and education. Clinical dietitians provide individual and group educational programs for patients and family members about their nutrition and health. A qualified registered Dietitian can undertake roles such as; Clinical dietitians work in hospitals to provide medical nutrition therapy to patients according to the disease processes provides individual inpatient and outpatient dietary consultations to patients and their family members and also conduct group educations for other health workers, patients and the public.
They work as a team with the physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, social workers and nurses to provide care to the patients. Community dietitians work with wellness programs and international health organizations. These dietitians apply and distribute knowledge about food and nutrition to specific life-styles and geographic areas. They coordinate nutritional programs in public health agencies, daycare centers, health clubs, and recreational camps and resorts. Some community dietitians carry out clinical based patient care in the form of home visits for patients who are too ill to physically attend consultation in health facilities.
Foodservice dietitians or manager are responsible for large-scale food planning and service. They coordinate, assess and plan foodservice processes in health care facilities, school food service programs, prisons, cafeterias, and restaurants. They direct and manage the operational and nutrition services staffs such as kitchen staffs, delivery staffs and dietary assistants or diet aides. Research dietitians are mostly involved with dietary related research in the clinical aspect of nutrition in disease states, public aspect on primary, secondary and sometimes tertiary health prevention and foodservice aspect in issues involving the food prepared for patients. Research Dietitians normally work in a hospital or research facilities. It should be noted that some Clinical dietitian's role also involve research other than the normal clinical workload.
Quality improvement in dietetics services is also one area of research. Administrative, or management or Director of Dietetics Department or Nutrition Services, sometimes also known as Manager instead of Director depending on the size, number of dietitians in the department and also the organizational structure adopted by the Health facilities or Hospital. Director or Manager acts as head of the dietitians. They also hire, train, direct, supervise employees and manage dietary departments Business dietitians serve as resource people for the media.
They work as sales representatives for food manufacturing companies that provide nutritional supplements and tube feeding supplies. Consultant dietitians work under private practice. They contract independently to provide nutrition services and educational programs to individuals, nursing homes, and in health care facilities. Apart from qualified registered Dietitians, other nutrition workers in a Nutrition department are; Dietary Aides or Dietary Assistants are responsible for assisting and carrying out the medical nutrition therapy prescribed by the Dietitians and to ensure that food for the patients as instructed by the Dietitians are carried out correctly by checking menus against recent diet orders before tray assembly begins and being physically present in the kitchen plating-lines at meal hours. Dietary aides in some countries might also carry out a simple initial health screening for newly admitted patients and only inform the Dietitians if any screened patients require a Dietitian's expertise for further assessments or interventions. Dietary clerks perform clerical tasks such as entry and maintenance of dietary requirements to a database.
They also track financial information, such as the number of meals served each day. Dietary managers are responsible for retail, catering, and tray lines. If an operation is large, there may be one or more managers to help in directing the dietary workers. Dietary workers prepare the food and meal trays in the kitchen. They check for accuracy and completeness.
They also maintain the storage area for food supplies and ensure practice of sanitary procedures. Dietary workers are trained on the job and can work in any commercial kitchen. Dietary hosts or hostesses deliver and bring back the meal trays to patients.
They distribute and collect menus and help the patients to make complete selections. A Dietitian's education in Health science involves significant scientific based knowledge in Anatomy, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Biology, Physiology, Nutrition & Medical Science. It is these strong foundations in advanced scientific knowledge equipped with counseling skills and aspects of psychology which enables a Dietitian to assess, analyze, intervene and educate a patient in relation to the diet and disease. It can be said that in an Interdisciplinary team (consisting of the Physician, Dietitian, Speech Therapist, Physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist, Social worker and Nurses), the Physician and the Dietitian are the two health professionals with the most well rounded knowledge on human biochemistry and physiology. There are a few different academic routes to becoming a fully qualified Dietitian; A professional undergraduate Bachelor degree in Dietetics which requires four years of studies or A Bachelor of science degree and a Postgraduate diploma in Dietetics or A Bachelor of science degree and a Masters in Dietetics.
Besides academic education, a Dietitian has to undertake an hospital internship before they are qualified as Dietitians. All the above qualifies a Dietitian on the same professional level upon graduation. Different grades or level comes with experience and working as a Dietitian for periods of time.
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