A Day in the Life
How did you get started in health care?
While I was in school, I interned at a children’s hospital kitchen. I evaluated the hospital’s meal plans and made sure that food was prepared correctly. For children with HIV, I made sure they weren’t exposed to foods with bacteria, like yogurt or cheese, which can harm their immune systems. It was the best thing I did to prepare to become a dietitian.
What’s a typical day like for a dietician?
As a registered dietitian, sometimes I feel like I’m part detective. Registered dietitians work with people who need special help with their diets — usually because they have an illness. At my clinic, we specialize in working with people who have HIV.
I see between six and 15 people a day. I talk with them to find out how they’re eating — that’s where the detective work comes in — and work to figure out the best individual diet plan for them.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
At my clinic, I am the only dietitian for about 2,100 patients. Yes, sometimes it’s overwhelming! But I love my job. It’s amazing how you can impact people’s lives simply by educating them about how food affects their bodies. The rewards are a lot greater than just a salary.
What is one great memory you have from a patient you’ve treated?
One patient I treated had lost over 100 pounds from AIDS. He was almost six feet tall, but he only weighed 103 pounds. Ten years ago, someone like him would have died. But today, because of the nutrition plan I gave him and the medicines now available, I was able to get him back to near-perfect health. Every time I see him at the clinic, he’s so grateful. He’s the type of patient that you live your life to help.
What is your advice for anyone considering becoming a dietician?
If you are just starting out, I recommend volunteering as soon as you can. There’s a lot you can learn from reading a textbook, but nothing compares to actually interacting with patients. Not only will it help you to find out if this type of work is right for you, but it will help you demonstrate your experience later on when you are looking for a job.