Career Option for Dietitians

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With increasing numbers of people becoming aware of the benefits of a healthy diet, dietitians in private practice who offer one-on-one counselling have perhaps never been more in demand. Yet options upon graduating go much further than merely providing advice to individuals.

Fetterly, for instance, has worked in hospital and palliative-care settings and was the nutrition-operations manager for Choices Markets for five years. (Loblaws is another grocer that has in-store dietitians.) Those types of jobs are just some of the possibilities in the sector.

RD Karol Traviss is dietetics program leader in the faculty of land and food systems at UBC. She confirms by phone the many employment opportunities for RDs:

“The work that we do is focused around improving health through food and nutrition, and people very often conceptualize that as being talking to people one-on-one about nutrition. But the number of ways one could work is quite diverse. Some [registered dietitians] work in clinical environments—for example, working with patients on kidney dialysis to meet their nutritional needs—then others work in population and public health, maybe working on policy development such as healthy-eating policies in schools or contributing to food-security initiatives. All the talk about nutrition in the world isn’t going to help if people are food-insecure because of poverty. Another big area is management and working in institutional settings, overseeing large-scale feeding [of] patients in hospitals.”

Then there are educational and research positions, communications work, and entrepreneurial options like food- and nutrition-related websites.

For all the career possibilities, there’s also a lot of confusion among the public about terms such as dietitian, nutritionist, registered dietitian, holistic nutritionist, and so on.

Traviss explains that the term nutritionist is not regulated and is sometimes used to describe people with PhDs in human nutrition who do research in the area or people who work in the supplement department of a health-food store. Sometimes, Traviss says, certain dietitian jobs come with the title “nutritionist”. The dietetics profession is a regulated health profession, just like nursing, occupational therapy, or physiotherapy; registered dietitians must meet certain requirements set out by the provincial regulatory body.

The nutrition and food-service management (NFSM) program at Langara College, meanwhile, teaches people who go into institutional food service how to operate kitchens in places such as hospitals, prisons, and schools. Now in its 50th year, the program is offered online and is helping to meet demand: operators of health-care facilities with more than 50 beds must have membership in the Canadian Society of Nutrition Management, and Langara is the only place in B.C. to offer the qualifying program.

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