Registered dietitians (RDs) work in a variety of employment settings including health care, business and industry, public health, education, research, and private practice. Many of these professional environments, particularly those in medical and health care settings, require that an individual who will be giving nutrition information be credentialed and licensed as an RD.
In medical settings RDs educate patients about nutrition and administer medical nutrition therapy as part of the health care team. They may also manage the food service operations in these settings, as well as in schools, day-care centers, and correctional facilities, overseeing everything from food purchasing and preparation to managing staff. RDs work with patients of all ages and with all forms of disease including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. RDs work along with physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, and social workers, as part of the health care team, to improve the nutritional status of hospitalized patients.
Increasingly, people are recognizing that there is an important connection between nutrition, fitness and health. Corporations also realize they can significantly reduce health insurance costs and employee sick days by promoting behaviors that help prevent illness and disease. Consequently, wellness centers and corporations are employing RDs to help educate their clients or employees about the important connection between food, fitness and health.
RDs work in communications, consumer affairs, public relations, marketing or product development for many industries including the major food manufacturers. These corporate RDs are viewed as vital contributors to the success of the product in the marketplace.
The importance of nutrition to sports performance has been recognized for centuries. However, modern scientific methods are allowing scientists to separate myth from the fact when it comes to diet and sport performance. Registered Dietitians bring a holistic approach to the athlete since RDs are not only concerned about the performance of the athlete but about their total well-being and health. Consequently, many professional and amateur athletes work with RDs to help maximize both their performance and their health.
RDs are active in working to improve the nutritional status and health of the communities in which they work and live. Through health education seminars and programs, RDs teach and advise the public on ways to improve their quality of life through healthy eating habits. RDs are also often actively involved in reducing the incidence of hunger in their communities, states, and on a national and international level.
RDs direct or conduct experiments for food companies, pharmaceutical companies, universities and hospitals to help improve the health and lifestyle of all Americans. Whether it is to determine the importance of calcium to bone health or investigating the impact of genetically altered foods on health and society, RDs are frequently part of the research teams working on such important projects.
RDs often work for themselves in private practice and provide services to food service or restaurant managers, food vendors and distributors, athletes, nursing home residents, or company employees.
Qualities of a Professional
Webster defines professional as "of relating to, or characteristic of a profession or calling" and professionalism as "the conduct, aims or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or professional person."
As a Registered Dietitian and a dietetics student, you will be expected to perform in a professional manner while interacting with patients, physicians, nurses, faculty, and other students. Your success as a dietitian will depend largely upon your ability to communicate and carry yourself in a way that is becoming of professional. Therefore, it is important that you begin immediately to form behaviors and habits that are the hallmarks of a professional such as excellence, promptness, reliability, dependability, courteousness, commitment and self motivation. Your professional growth and behavior will be monitored and evaluated throughout this program and will impact your readiness for an internship program. Below are the standards of conduct that you as a dietetic student, will be expected to follow.
Professionals constantly strive for higher levels of performance and achievement. Therefore, they gracefully accept and value criticism from others knowing that it stimulates growth and produces excellence. They keep an open mind and respond non-defensively. They are self motivated, directed, and positive in their conversations with others avoiding unproductive negative communication. Finally, they see mediocrity as unprofessional and therefore strive to do the very best in everything they are involved with.
Professionals value each individual's time and resources knowing that everyone works under very tight schedules. They are prompt for meetings/classes and exhibit good time management skills and the ability to prioritize their schedule. To best serve everyone, they do not over commit themselves.
Reliability and Dependability
Professionals are aware that people rely on them for accurate information and therefore continuously strive to remain informed. They also know that others are depending on them to perform their responsibilities with completeness and thoroughness and in a professional manner.
Professionals recognize each individual's self worth and are courteous and polite to each person regardless of their position or profession. They respond to invitations to meetings or other professional and social functions in a timely manner. If they are going to be late for a meeting, they call ahead to the person in charge of the meeting to apologize and let them know when they expect to arrive. If they re going to be late and can't call ahead, they apologize to the person in charge of the meeting at the most appropriate time after arriving at the meeting. If they are unable to attend, they call with regrets.
Professionals are committed to their profession and to the people they serve. They are committed to continuously maintaining the highest standards of conduct and ethics in their professional and private lives.