Job Title: Dietitian And Nutritional Consultant In Private Practice
Type of Company: Private consultation to individuals and families for medical nutrition therapy.
Education: BS, Dietetics and Community Nutrition, University of Maryland Dietetic Internship, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Boston, MA
Previous Experience: After completing my internship at a large metropolitan hospital, I worked as a clinical and out-patient dietitian for seven years before starting my own consulting business in 1982. My clients can include patients who've been referred by a doctor, or a hospital cardiac unit, a diabetes and weight control program, a fitness center or the local community college.
Job Tasks: Most of my time is spent counseling patients for medical nutrition therapy. The counseling is recommended and initiated by a doctor who provides me with their medical diagnoses, lab results, etc. The patient sends me a food diary prior to his visit which I analyze using a computer program. After the initial consultation, I prepare a report for the physicians involved. Follow-up appointments are scheduled; I typically see a patient any where from 2-5 times depending on how drastically his habits have to change and how much support and accountability he needs.
Medical nutrition therapy is appropriate to a multitude of diagnoses, along with normal lifestyle and life stage issues nutrition affects (pregnancy, nursing, vegetarian, seniors, etc). More medically-oriented diets are prescribed for heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, cancer, kidney disease, eating disorders and so on.
Since I work alone, I have to do all the business and administrative tasks myself: billing, marketing, etc. This is one way to keep my overhead down. I also do a lot of community talks to organizations and volunteer on committees. Most presentations are paid. Consultation can take many forms such as workshops, classes, writing articles and I have done these as well.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The foremost benefit for me is making a difference the quality of patients' lives by helping them to improve their health through medical nutrition therapy. In addition, regardless of the outcome (which I sometimes don't get to see), making meaningful connections to others is important to me.
I can only control my own behavior and it is frustrating if the patient is not ready to make changes or has unrealistic expectations. I can only try to introduce him to a different perspective. Another disadvantage is that if you don't keep in contact with peers or other professionals, you can feel isolated working alone.
Job Tips: You are really a behavioral and lifestyle counselor, so take psychology and counseling courses. You need to also be comfortable marketing yourself and take some business and entrepreneurship courses. There are a lot of competing nutritional doctrines out there. The more traditional path is through the American Dietetic Association. Certification from them will make it easier for you to receive reimbursement from medical insurance companies. If you choose to take a more naturopathic approach, you are far less likely to get reimbursement. But you can promote a more wholistic approach to eating as a registered dietitian.
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