Dietitian (Episode 66)

November 5, 2019 0 By William Morgan

They say you are what you eat.
And our next career knows that better than anyone.
Today, we’re talking to a dietitian.
Hi, Brian. Welcome to Prince George.
Thanks for having me.
Let me show you around.
My name is Courtenay Hopson.
I’m a clinical dietitian at the University Hospital
of Northern BC in Prince George.
Dietitians are nutrition experts who ensure
that people have the nutritional information
and the right foods available
to meet their nutritional needs.
They help people figure out
what their nutritional needs are,
based off of medical diagnosis they have
or just their age and gender
and help them to meet nutritional goals
that they might have for themselves.
There’s three general areas.
Clinical, which would be with in-patients or clients.
Community, which would be working
out in the community,
but usually working on policies for health authorities.
And also in food service administration,
so working in a kitchen
in a long-term care facility or in a hospital.
So, your role could be a lot different
in different types of dietitian positions.
Most dietitian work is Monday to Friday,
normal work hours.
It’s not usually shift work.
An average day would involve screening the patients
on my unit to see who’s at nutritional risk
and then prioritizing those patients
and doing nutrition assessments on
the ones who are at highest nutritional risk.
And, from there, coming up with a care plan
that would meet their nutritional needs in hospital
and then also when they
are discharged home from hospital.
Okay, hop on the scale now.
Okay, so that’s my weight there .

And we use that as a part of our
nutrition assessment on everybody.
We’ll take their height and weight, do their BMI.
And it’s just one tool
that we have to figure out
how healthy they are in terms of their nutritional status.
It doesn’t tell us everything,
but it gives us a bit of an idea.
You definitely need to be creative as a dietitian.
You have to work with different clients
who have all sorts of different needs.
They might have financial barriers
or religious barriers
or different diet restrictions based on
the medical conditions that they have.
Specifically what’s important for an individual patient,
you need to be able to look at the details,
um, for that patient of their diseases,
the medications they’re on.
All that sort of thing.
So, your BMI—your body mass
index—works out to 24.7.
We want it between 18.5 to 24.9
for somebody your age.
Um, so you’re in that range,
so you’re healthy BMI-wise.
So, I don’t have to change anything? Perfect.
People can always tweak things
in their diet to make it a bit healthier.
You don’t need to get really restrictive about it,
but there’s always things that people
can do just to eat a bit healthier
and that’s where dietitians can be helpful:
finding that balance for people.
There’s a lot of calculations
that you do on a daily basis.
When we’re determining calories
that a patient would need,
there’s different equations that we
use to determine caloric needs.
And there’s also a pretty strong
science connection with physiology
and the connection between food
and your body and science.
To be a dietician you have to have completed
a bachelor’s degree in nutritional science or dietetics.
Four years of undergraduate courses at a university
and then a ten-month to a year internship.
The dietetic internship is really important
in terms of gaining those practical skills.
Now, breaking down each of these food groups,
you would have to know a little bit about each of them,
about what they’re worth as far
as calorie counts, how much sugars,
fatty acids, things like that,
are all contained within each.
Is that something that you learn
strictly through university?
Yeah, so initially you learn sort of general nutrition
and food science and that kind of thing.
And then, as you get on in third and fourth year,
you’re learning more about therapeutic diets
and how they relate to disease conditions.
An important skill is to be able
to talk with people that you’ve just met.
You have to be pretty convincing sometimes
to get patients to understand the role nutrition
and their diet can play in their disease state.
Providing the foods that will help slow
the progression of that disease
or minimize consequences that could
come about because of the disease.
And you have to be able to build rapport with them
and be able to do a teaching with them
or have them feel comfortable
to answer your questions.
But that’s one of the benefits is that you could start out
as a clinical dietitian and then
you could move into community
or you could move into food service.
So you have the background training
to work in any of those fields,
but there is room to move up,
either to be a chief dietitian of a department
or even beyond that.
You could move into management in other
levels of the health-care system.
When you’re able to do a teaching
and they come back and say that,
“Oh yeah. This is really working for me,”
and then you’re able to take further steps with them
Just seeing those successes
in clients’ or in patients’ lives
is one of the real rewards.
Okay, so that was an apple a day…?
Got it. Thank you very much, Courtenay.
I had a great day.
See you later .
And, once again, I’m Brian for Career Trek,
reminding you that this career could be yours.
See you next time.