A dietitian is a professional trained in translating the science of food, nutrition and medical nutrition therapy to meet the needs of individual or target groups, whether in disease or health. He/ she is equipped with the knowledge and skills to perform nutritional assessment and diagnosis; prescribe medical nutrition therapy; monitor, evaluate and document the nutrition care of individuals and groups that require diet intervention and rehabilitation; provide dietary counselling and nutrition education to individuals and caregivers for the management of diseases / illness, in both acute and chronic care. Besides, the dietitian plays an important role in promoting wellness in the community, administrating foodservice including development of modified diets/ meals/recipes in the food service organization and catering industry, and providing consultation to related industries. Some dietitians also participate in academics and research.
The dietitian is also involved in providing input for the formulation of policies, protocols, clinical practice guidelines, medical nutrition therapy guidelines, planning and implementation of programmes to support the current healthcare needs of the population. He/she provide education and disseminate nutrition information through community activities and various modes of mass media like giving talks and attending interview in radio and television, as well as writing in newsprint, professional articles for release in newspapers, journals, magazines, etc.
Clinical Dietitians, provide their services to inpatients and outpatients at hospitals or medical centres. Doctors refer patients to the dietitian for consultation on the nutritional modifications required for the treatment of the disease or condition for the critically ill or chronic diseases. Clinical dietitians conduct nutritional assessment, and prescribe the diet based on the anthropometric measurement, biochemical result, clinical diagnosis and dietary intake. Recommendation is made for the individual’s meal plan for a normal or therapeutic diet, to be administered either orally or via tube feeding. In certain cases, if tube feeding is not possible or unable to meet the nutritional requirements, parenteral nutrition (nutrition being delivered directly through the vein) will be required.
Clinical Dietitians work closely in a multidisciplinary team approach with the doctor and other Allied Health Professionals like nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, speech therapists, etc. to provide holistic care to the patients. The dietary advice, together with other aspects of care, for the patient and his/her carer are very important to ensure comprehension, compliance of treatment and reduce risk of morbidity. .
Food Service Dietitians or managers are responsible for planning and management of the meal production ( normal or therapeutic meals ) and delivery system to ensure quality and safety of foods provided to the patients or clients. The food service organizations include hospitals or medical centres, institutions, prisons, airline catering, staff cafetarias, food chain outlets, restaurants, etc. The dietitian’s responsibility encompass understanding of organizational policies, management of manpower, budgeting, procurement, purchasing, storage, food preparation, cooking, meal presentation and serving to the patients or clients.
Quality control and compliance to food safety standards and guidelines are crucial. Effort on obtaining feedback on customer’s satisfaction, customer’s expectation and continuous quality improvement are an aset to the organization.
Community Dietitians work closely with wellness programmes from health organizations from both local and international. These dietitians apply and disseminate knowledge about food and nutrition to individuals and target groups in the lifespan. They can be involved in coordinating nutritional programs in public health agencies, daycare centers, health clubs, recreational camps and resorts. Some community dietitians carry out clinical – based patient care in the form of Home – Visits for patients who are too ill physically, to attend consultation at health facilities or require the services of a dietitian for home-care services like meal planning, proper food preparation techniques and management of feeding regime for those on tube feeding.
There are also community dietitians that managed their own Private Consultation Practice. They contract independently, to provide nutrition and dietetic services, educational programmes and advice to individuals, nursing homes, private schools and in healthcare facilities.
Research Dietitians work at universities or research organizations. They conduct research studies in various aspects that support further development in nutrition and dietetics research. Some of the research scope may include studies on nutrients in foods, nutrient intake, clinical intervention, food preparation methods, dietary compliance studies, KAP studies and others. They may work closely with other universities, and research organizations, from local or international agencies in collaborating research. He/she also work with dietitians in clinical practice sector, to collaborate efforts, to further improve patient care.
Besides being involved in research, dietitians working in the University sector are also involved in providing teaching and education of undergraduates and postgraduate students. They are also involved in giving talks and provide education to other organizations and the mass media.
Sports Dietitians work with sports organizations and fitness agencies involved in the promotion of sports and fitness among our population. The dietitian will conduct nutritional assessment based on the type of sports and training regimes, prescribe the recommended diet for individuals to achieve peak performance in both aesthetic and competitive sports, and advice on food choices, food preparation techniques and eating habits. Besides, he/she is involved in promotion of sports, exercise and encourage a physically active lifestyle to support the Healthy Lifestyle Programme of the National Healthcare.
The dietitian works closely with the team of professionals like doctors, exercise physiologist, fitness instructors, physiotherapists, sports psychologists and others in managing the well being of both the competitive and recreational athletes.
Business Dietitians encompass dietitians working in sectors whereby consultancy and professional advice is required in disseminating professional and accurate information about a particular product, consultancy or service.
The Business dietitian may work with other categories of dietitians, other organizations to network, share knowledge and experience, so as to help and meet the needs of the client. This may involved sectors like food manufacturing industry, food service industry, pharmaceutical industry and others.
Training, education and imparting professional information to the clients, whether healthcare professionals or the public are important to address the current healthcare needs. He/she may be expected to work closely with other local or international organizations and facilities.