As I begin to enjoy my retirement from my career as an employed registered, licensed dietitian, I have been reflecting on the past 45-plus years. The question that haunts me is, “Why would anyone want to be a dietitian?”
March is National Nutrition Month and March 13 is National Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist Day. This is a special time to reflect upon the importance of healthy foods and the people who promote that there are no goods and no bad foods.
Nutrition is not a glamorous topic and most people don’t like it. A career in dietetics continues to be a challenge today. The salary is below average after more than five years of advanced education, and jobs are often hard to find.
The career path starts by spending hours cleaning dirty patient trays and running them through a dish machine. Mopping floors, taking diet orders, and working a tray line lays the groundwork for this arduous career path.
University courses include biochemistry, statistics and physiology. Food science and business classes take the place of fun electives. A semester of studying about diet and disease is enough to drive a young aspiring nutrition expert to overdose on chocolate and chardonnay.
Why would anyone want to become a dietitian? My years of practicing medical nutrition therapy is a testament to this insanity.
Everyone who chews and swallows is their own nutrition expert. People know what they like and absolutely what they do not like. Free choice and the abundance of food allow a person to consume whatever their taste buds demand. After years of trying to explain appropriate choices with hours of verbal abuse and ridicule from my clients and the public, I have tough skin. I like to call it alligator hide, it is a vital trait for a career in dietetics.
Success in this field requires something that cannot be taught in school: a passion to serve others with strong nutrition messages. A desire to help others enjoy being healthy through food feeds this passion.
Medical nutrition research has advanced immensely and digestion has evolved into an intricate science of biochemistry and psychology. The therapeutic advancements are mind-boggling, yet some nutritionists must continue to discuss the difference between butter and margarine.
The study of dietetics is not for everyone. Nutrition professionals often straddle a slippery floor in the kitchen while discussing parenteral nutrition with a physician. They are trained observers of details while striving to educate others to see the big picture.
I am envious of the youth and the future of dietetics. Words like incretin hormones, cryptosporidiosis, and acetylcholine roll off our tongues while meal plans, broccoli flowerets and calculators dance in our heads. Would I do it again? You betcha.
Happy Dietitian Day, Amy J, Beth, Maggie, Matt, Wendy, Bonnie, Carol, Fran, Amy, Debbie K-W, Kris, Dea, Deb, Erin, Cora and Shannon. By the way, there is no “c” in dietitian, just thought you would like to know.
Bobbie Randall is a registered, licensed dietitian, certified diabetes educator in Wooster, Ohio. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.