What Does A Clinical Dietitian Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

Alyssa OmandacCareer, Overview

Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

Clinical Dietitians

Clinical Dietitians monitor and assess the nutrition of patients to assist with recovery or treatment for their medical conditions. Common job duties include educating patients, developing meal plans, and helping patients maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Bachelor's degree
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A Clinical Dietitian is a specialized Dietitian that typically works with patients in a clinical setting. Certain medical conditions and treatments can impact the nutrition of a patient. The patient’s nutritional habits may also impact their ability to recover from specific medical conditions.

For example, when someone is receiving chemotherapy, they may work with a Clinical Dietitian to ensure that they receive proper nutrition to maintain their strength.

It is the job of the Clinical Dietitian to keep medical patients eating healthy. Here is a closer look at how they perform this task.

What they do

Clinical Dietitians monitor and assess the nutrition of patients to assist with recovery or treatment for their medical conditions. Common job duties include educating patients, developing meal plans, and helping patients maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Assess Patients’ Nutritional Needs and Eating Habits

When meeting a new patient, the Clinical Dietician assesses the patient’s nutritional needs and current eating habits. The Dietician needs to learn more about the patient’s lifestyle to uncover any obstacles that may interfere with healthy eating.

Clinical Dieticians also need to assess the impact of existing medical conditions on the patient’s nutrition. For example, a patient who is undergoing chemotherapy may need specific nutrients.

Educating Patients on Healthy Eating and Nutrition Issues

A major part of a Clinical Dietician’s job is educating patients. You may explain the importance of eating healthy and the dangers of a lack of nutrition. The goal is to encourage patients to listen to your advice, which requires patients to understand the seriousness of their situation.

Develop Meal and Nutrition Plans for Patients

After assessing the needs of a patient, the Clinical Dietician begins developing a nutrition plan. This may include a detailed meal plan with specific recommendations for each meal or simply guidelines. For example, a Clinical Dietician may tell a patient to avoid certain foods.

Document the Progress of Each Patient

Clinical Dieticians maintain patient records and continue to document their progress. They may also supply records to other medical specialists or the patient’s primary Physician, depending on the wishes of the patient.

What is the job like


You Get to Improve the Health of Your Patients

Watching a patient overcome a health issue due to your recommendations is a rewarding experience.

You Can Work in a Variety of Settings

Clinical Dieticians are employed by hospitals, schools, clinics, and a wide range of healthcare facilities, giving you many job opportunities and places to work.

You May Only Need a Bachelor’s Degree

Unlike many healthcare jobs, you may only need a Bachelor’s degree to enter this field, allowing you to enter the workforce sooner.

You Often Work a Set Schedule

Clinical Dieticians may occasionally work late to finish administrative tasks, but they mostly work a set schedule, which makes it easier to avoid feeling overworked.


Your Patients May Not Always Follow Your Advice

It can be frustrating when a patient refuses to follow your professional recommendations.

Your Patients’ Health May Not Always Improve

Even when a patient follows your advice, it may not always be enough to improve their health.

Where they work

Hospitals and Clinics
Long-Term Care Facilities
Universities and Public Schools
Veterans’ Hospitals

Clinical Dieticians often work in hospitals, clinics, and other facilities that provide health services to the public. Long-term care facilities, public schools, private practices, and veterans’ hospitals may also employ Clinical Dieticians. They often work with Physicians to help improve the health of patients.

When employed by a school or university, a Clinical Dietician may help plan the cafeteria menu to provide students with adequate nutrition.

How to become one

Step 1: Study Nutrition in High School

Many high schools offer nutrition courses, providing aspiring Clinical Dieticians with a head start on their education.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

A Bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement for Clinical Dieticians. Common fields of study include Dietetics, Nutrition, Public Health Nutrition, and Biology.

Step 3: Earn a Master’s Degree

Earning a Master’s degree is an optional step that can improve your credibility in this field. The most common major is a Master of Science in Nutrition.

Step 4: Complete an Internship

Clinical Dieticians typically complete internships after college to gain hands-on experience and supervised training.

Step 5: Obtain a State License

Most states require Clinical Dieticians to obtain a license to practice. However, a few states have no regulations and several only require registration with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR).

While the requirements vary, most Clinical Dieticians register with the CDR, which involves passing the CDR exam. After passing the exam, you receive the Registered Dietician Nutritionist (RDN) credential.

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Helper

People with this personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.

You can read more about these career personality types here.

Good listening skills are one of the most important personality traits for Clinical Dieticians, as you need to listen to the needs and concerns of your patients. Clinical Dieticians are also often natural problem-solvers, as they frequently need to find ways to encourage healthy eating habits that are difficult for patients to stick to.

A Clinical Dietician should also be flexible, as they may work in a variety of settings throughout their careers. You may work in hospitals, clinics, universities, or individual businesses.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.


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