My journey to become a Registered Dietitian (RD) has been very personal and life-long. My dad was diagnosed with a chronic medical condition when he was a teenager. Although good nutrition could not cure the disease, it most definitely could have helped. He suffered multiple setbacks including heart disease, kidney disease, and a below the knee amputation, just to name a few. I decided since we as a family had been through so much, I wanted to help kids and their families realize food choices mattered in living a healthy lifestyle, no matter what cards they are dealt in the game of life.
To be an RD, one must complete a Bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a nutrition related field. You then must apply and match for a very competitive dietetic internship. During this internship, 1,200 supervised hours of practice are completed which include community nutrition, food service, and clinical nutrition. Once you survive that, it’s time to sit for your national board exam. Upon passing the exam, you are then required to maintain a certain number of Continuing Education Units each year to maintain your skills and credentials, of which we are routinely audited.
And YES, there is a difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist. Anyone can call themselves a “nutritionist.” A registered dietitian has gone through all of the above and is THE food and nutrition expert that can translate nutrition science into easy practical solutions for you and your family. RD’s can be found in schools, food service, community health programs, professional and college sports programs, private practice, and of course in hospitals.
My path took me from Florida State University (Go NOLES!) to University of Texas School of Public Health, where I completed my Masters in Public Health and my dietetic internship. After working at another local hospital I was presented an opportunity to work at Texas Children’s Hospital. I can honestly say, I am blessed to do what I do. I love my job. I love my patients. And I love coming to work – how many people get to say that?!
I work in the Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition Department. Most of my patients require IV nutrition (total parenteral nutrition – TPN) and/or tube feeds to sustain life due to malabsorption issues. My job is not only to make adjustments to their TPN based on their labs and growth, but to rehabilitate the intestines so they can come off TPN and/or tubefeed.
I never thought I would use math as much as I do or talk about poop and vomit as much as I do, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. My patients have actually taught me more and given me more than I could ever imagine and for that, my life has been forever changed for the better. I am just 1 of 54, dietitians that work at Texas Children’s Hospital. We can be found in clinical, research and management positions, all striving to make a difference in our patient’s lives. Not everyone can make a child grow, but that is something our Texas Children’s RDs have excelled at, and actually have a reputation world-wide for our commitment to our patients.
So seek out an RD if you and your family are in need of nutritional guidance. We’ve been through a lot to get where we are and are committed to helping you and your family “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.”
For more information about our Food and Nutrition Services Department, visit here.