Many of you may wonder exactly what a dietitian in a hospital does. If you are admitted to the hospital, you may or may not see a dietitian, depending on your diagnosis and what happens to you over the course of your stay.
Here’s a meme which I think does a pretty good job of explaining the role of a dietitian.
(Image courtesy of fellow blogger HappyDietitian)
My friends may think I’m all about a perfectly balanced and healthy lifestyle, society may view me as someone who works in the media, patients view dietitians as policemen (the most common joke I hear when I walk into the room and ask if a patient is following any sort of diet at home: “Yeah- I’m on the ‘see-food’ diet. I see food and I eat it!”).
Doctors have a tendency to think of dietitians as food service workers. Although we do work alongside food service to provide nutritionally adequate meals to patients, we are not working in food service. I have a lot of respect for food service workers, to be sure! “Catering assistants” (also called “dietary aides” or other names depending on the facility) are sometimes the friendliest faces of the hospital to many patients, as they come to the room to take menus and bring trays.
And then of course, I like to think of myself as having hours to sit down and counsel patients, helping them to think through how to have optimal health and make changes to improve their dietary patterns.
In all reality, the past week and a half I have spent most of my time reading medical charts and running a calculator to assess the nutrient needs of patients. This week I am working in the ICU, so many of my patients are on tube feedings.
I read through the chart to find out what brought the patient to the hospital. Then I assess the calorie needs for the patient, based on their height, weight, and current condition. For example, patients that have traumatic brain injury have higher energy needs, and those with skin breakdown have elevated protein needs. I had learned the various needs for different conditions through classes, but it is extremely different when you have a real live person for whom you are calculating their nutrition!
Medical nutrition therapy is an integral part of the healing process, and it’s pretty neat to be a part of it.
Contrary to my opinion when I began my dietetic internship, I’m finding some aspects of clinical dietetics to be quite enjoyable. I suppose that is the purpose of this internship- to force myself to be exposed to various opportunities within the dietetics field where I might be able to work.
ps. The power is back on at my house! While I thoroughly enjoyed the “camping” experience, it’s nice to have modern amenities restored 🙂