It has been just over a year since I became a Registered Dietitian! That was one of the happiest moments of my life (aside from my wedding, of courseJ). Throughout my education, people asked me, “What’s your major?” When I told them “Nutrition and Dietetics, I am going to be a Registered Dietitian”, many people looked at me weirdly…”what do they do? Oh, you’re the food police! You’re going to hate that because nobody will listen to you. Good luck finding a job. People already know what they should be eating …”
And yet…people aren’t.
The dietitian field is growing more today than ever before, and I truly believe it is because there is a definite need! With heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other medical conditions on the rise, dietitians are used to help treat individuals (and sometimes groups) with something everybody has in common: food.
Depending on the interest in this blog, I may share different areas of dietetics and my experiences with all of them, so stay tuned! Today, I am going to elaborate on what dietitians are and how to become one along with my education experience.
To begin the discussion, I am not a nutritionist. I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. What’s the difference? Though there are many nutritionists, dietitians are not only required to have a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics but also have to complete a 1200+ hour supervised practice (or internship for didactic programs) and pass National Boards through the Commission of Dietetics Registration (CDR)…and boy let me tell you—that test was not easy. So there are definitely some extra steps one has to take in order to become a dietitian. Dietitians can go on to work in hospitals, public health departments, outpatient programs, school systems, fitness facilities and many more nontraditional areas. In addition to that, RD/RDNs must complete 75 hours of continuing professional education courses every 5 years. Registered dietitians have many more job opportunities due to being credentialed.
For my schooling, I attended Loma Linda University in a coordinated program. My supervised practice hours were incorporated into my 2 year education plan, so after I received my BS in Nutrition and Dietetics, I already had all my hours completed and was eligible to take boards.
In college, I took numerous classes from basic nutrition to biochemistry. Dietitians are nutrition scientists. We take anatomy and physiology 1 & 2, general chemistry 1 & 2, basic microbiology, basic nutrition, general psychology, and sociology all before getting into nutrition school. In nutrition school, we take those classes to a deeper level by taking biochemistry (several biochemistry classes each building on each other), organic chemistry, medical nutrition therapy, advanced medical nutrition therapy, nutrition counseling, statistics, finance, food service courses, and clinical nutrition managing courses. As you can see from that extensive list, we have a variety of courses to take in order to become a RD/RDN.
All those classes may sound a bit overwhelming and boring to many of you, but they were so informative and fun! One of my fondest memories from my education actually involves one of my least favorite classes! In one of my food service operations courses, we were required to participate in “The Brown Bag Project” where my instructor gave us 3 ingredients: 1 starch, 1 vegetable, and 1 seasoning to create an entree in under 3 hours…kind of similar to one of those competition cooking shows on Food Network. We were able to use additional ingredients to create this meal. I was given hominy, artichokes, and coriander. Initially, my first reaction was “What the heck am I supposed to do with hominy!?” After thinking it over, I came up with an idea. My lab partner and I created a chile rellano stuffed with pureed hominy, fresh artichoke hearts, and black beans sprinkled with coriander and cheese. It turned out pretty good, and the judges gave outstanding reviews! It was in this class that I my love for experimental cooking sparked and thus my recipe development began.
Through my excellent education experience, I went on and completed my supervised practice hours, graduated with honors, passed the RD exam, and now am a clinical dietitian. When looking into a school no matter what the profession may be, make sure your program has a lot to offer you. Loma Linda University had so many opportunities for me to grow professionally, personally, and spiritually.
What memories do you have from your professional program? I would love to hear them!
Would any of you be interested in reading about the areas of dietetics? Let me know!
Until Next Time,
Katrina Detter, RD, LDN