What do dietitians do in Nutrition Care?

Dietitians in Nutrition Care work with individual patients to:

  • Assess nutrition-related risks and needs
  • Develop nutrition care plans
  • Manage the implementation of nutrition care plans
  • Evaluate and modify nutrition care plans as appropriate

An assessment of a patient’s nutrition-related risks and needs will often include the components below:

Medical History Assessment

This may include an assessment of medical diagnoses and other relevant medical history possibly impacting nutritional status, including co-morbidities (e.g. history of diabetes and glycemic control, history of depression and loss of appetite).

Laboratory Assessment

This may include an assessment of relevant biochemical and diagnostic tests and procedures possibly impacting nutritional status (e.g. haemoglobin results and iron deficiency anemia, results of a barium swallowing assessment and dysphagia).

Medication Assessment

This may include an assessment of medications, especially those with nutrition-related implications or side effects.

Anthropometric Assessment

This may include an assessment of a variety of measurements of the human body, such as Body Mass Index, waist circumference, percent weight loss, body composition, and nutrition-focused physical observation data (e.g. muscle wasting).

Diet History Assessment

This may include collection and assessment of food and nutrient intake data.

Methods may include a 24-hour recall, food records, food frequency questionnaires, and mealtime feeding observations.

It will also include an assessment of any factors that could be affecting food intake, an assessment of relevant nutritional requirements using appropriate calculations, and any food- and nutrient-related learning needs specific to the patient.

Social History Assessment

This may include an assessment of relevant demographic (e.g. age), psycho-social (e.g. occupation) and behavioural (e.g. alcohol intake) data, which may have an impact on a patient’s nutritional health.

Other aspects of a dietitian's role

Communication is essential to every aspect of Nutrition Care. Communication with patients, family members and relevant members of the healthcare team is a fundamental part of a dietitian’s role.

Dietitians working in Nutrition Care may also have non-clinical aspects to their practice including:

  • Contributing to nutrition-related research
  • Providing teaching and education to members of their interprofessional team
  • Mentoring and precepting dietetic students and interns
  • Creating nutrition communication handouts and tools
  • Implementing relevant nutrition-related projects and programs for both individuals and groups

It is important to note that a dietitian’s role in Nutrition Care practice may also include performing duties related to Population and Public Health and Management.

Learn more about dietitians working in Nutrition Care by reading “Putting it all together.”