Constance… WHAT IS A REGISTERED DIETITIAN???

Yes, I still exist.

Had a busy, vacation-filled first part of March… but BACK TO REALITY… and blogging 🙂

So even though it’s basically over, March is National Nutrition Month. These days there are so many misconceptions about what nutrition actually is, that I thought I’d take this opportunity to explain why us Registered Dietitians are so super fabulous (kidding, but not really)!

SO WHAT CLASSIFIES YOU AS A REGISTERED DIETITIAN?

First, you must earn at least a bachelor’s degree. Sounds easy right? Go talk about fruits and vegetables and graduate?? SIKE. During my bachelor’s program at Mississippi State, not only did I have to take clinically based classes but we had to take SEVERAL Chemistrys (I almost quit, seriously), SEVERAL Biology’s, Purchasing, Management courses, Genetics, and Food Production courses. That doesn’t even count all the basics we had to have like Psychology, Sociology and Statistics. Nor does it include the classes most pertinent to our study such as Nutrition Assessment, Nutrition Through the Life Cycle or Medical Nutrition Therapy. Only now do I understand why it was necessary for a nutrition major to take classes like Human Resource Management… but back then it SUCKED.

Second, prior to graduating from Mississippi State, I had to complete 200 hours of field experience in hospitals, foodservice, public health facilities etc.

Ok so now you’re thinking, “she graduated from State and then became a Registered Dietitian.” Riiiight.

From there, one must go through a matching process for a supervised practice program or an internship. In my case, I couldn’t make up my mind and just went on to graduate school first. Some programs offer master credits for internship hours and mine at The University of Southern Mississippi did! I worked as a Graduate Assistant, took classes and worked on my Special Project the first year of graduate school and then the second year of graduate school went on to my internship, also with Southern Miss.

The internship required 1200 hours of supervised practice for completion. So basically, I got up and went to work every single day for a year (without mentioning the most horrendous, jam packed, assignment-filled summer preparation of my life- they want to make sure you know your stuff before you go to “work”, understandable). During this “work” I spent hundreds of those hours in a kitchen on the floor of a hospital working on the trayline with several foodservice workers preparing meals for the day. I got to know hairnets really well. This part was absolutely my least favorite. The rest of the hours were spent on the patient floors or in clinics seeing patients with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, kidney failure, burns, etc. There were a few hours dedicated to community nutrition, which I fell in love with and have as a job today!

Finally, once you finish your internship, you have a year to take your registration exam. This is the most nerve wrecking time of your life. You study calculations all day, review definitions you can’t even pronouce all night and still panic like crazy. Once you pass your timed exam, you celebrate, sleep for days, and then can call yourself a REGISTERED DIETITIAN. And even then, you must maintain continuing education hours for the remainder of your career or that RD behind your name can get taken away in a flash!

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