Hello there! I hope this post finds you well. I know many of you have had to adjust to new daily schedules and new ways of life over the past few weeks as this has been a huge transitional period for our country and our world.
I have spent some of this time reflecting on my work as a dietitian and how proud I am to be a part of this profession-always, but especially during this time. On that note, I wanted to use this space to highlight a few ways that dietitians are supporting and caring for patients during this crisis. However as you read this, keep in mind that dietitians also do this work all of the time, not just during a pandemic. Dietitians are always essential.
There are various realms of nutrition and dietetics that dietitians can be a part of. The following list highlights just a few of the roles dietitians have in our communities.
- Clinical dietitians care for those patients in acute care settings. RDs are responsible for selecting an appropriate menu for a patient based on the patient's preferences, beliefs, allergies, and/or medical conditions. They are also responsible for calculating the rate and volume of artificial feeds, like tube feedings and IV feedings, which many patients, especially those in intensive and critical care units, need. RDs are the only staff in medical facilities properly trained and educated to do this.
- Community/public health/outpatient dietitians offer nutrition education and counseling to vulnerable and at risk populations like those suffering from diabetes and heart disease and also those receiving benefits such as SNAP or WIC. Dietitians working in these settings are responsible for making sure that patients receive access to resources for nutrition education and intervention and resources for foods that may be critical to the stability and safety of their homes.
- School Nutrition/food service dietitians usually manage the meals and snacks and other foods offered through various programs at schools and universities, but also at hospitals and long term care facilities. There are very strict nutrient guidelines and parameters that those meals and snacks must meet as well. In this time when almost all schools and universities are physically closed and students are not on campus, many dietitians have had to create innovative ways to offer and even deliver the foods that their students count on day in and day out.
- Professors and dietetic internship facilitators and preceptors have had to greatly alter their plans for students and interns. I am sure that some professors are facilitating remote classes, but I am unsure how this pandemic is affecting current dietetic interns. I can only imagine that it has created excess stress during an already stressful and extremely busy time in their lives though.
- Eating disorder dietitians work with patients who suffer from a variety of eating disorders. This is such fragile and intense work any time, but especially during times such as these when routines are disrupted and stress and worry may be higher than usual for many. These circumstances could trigger heightened symptoms of an eating disorder and/or cause habits or symptoms to resurface for some who have been in remission and free from their eating disorder(s). Dietitians serve a crucial role in the support, guidance, and treatment these patients need.
As I mentioned, these are just a handful of areas that dietitians work in and contribute to. I am grateful to have amazing RD colleagues and for all of those RDs continuing to work and support patients during this time.
Stay safe out there!