Dietitian: job description
Dietitians work on a group and an individual basis with patients of all ages. Responsibilities include:
- providing health advice and promoting healthy eating
- helping people come to terms with their illnesses
- advising about special diets
- making presentations
- writing reports
- educating health professionals and the public about nutrition
- establishing and addressing key health needs
- helping to facilitate dietary changes
- working as part of a multidisciplinary team
- supporting the work of other healthcare professionals
The National Health Service (NHS) employs the majority of dietitians within hospitals, community health organisations and outpatient clinics. Some dietitians are self-employed, while the remainder work for private healthcare sector employers or food, drink and pharmaceutical companies.
Vacancies attract moderate competition. Jobs are advertised by careers services and recruitment agencies, in newspapers, in publications such as Network Health Digest and in vacancy lists produced by the British Dietetic Association. Work experience and hospital visits can provide a useful insight into the profession.
You can only become a dietitian with a good honours degree in nutrition or dietetics, or alternatively a life sciences degree that incorporates human physiology and biochemistry. An appropriate postgraduate qualification is required for candidates without a first degree in nutrition or dietetics. Employers may also require specific science A levels.
You may be able to access NHS funding for your course, whether it is undergraduate or postgraduate.
Dietitians need to possess a mature, confident and caring manner. The ability to interact well with people from a wide range of backgrounds, together with good interpersonal and communication skills are essential – as is an understanding nature.