To explain the function of a clinical registered dietitian, one must first know what is a registered dietitian. According to the American Dietetics Association (a dietitian’s professional organization) a registered dietitian (RD) are food and nutrition experts who have earned the RD credential through education, a supervised practice program, pass a national credentialing exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration and continuing professional education to maintain registration.
The educational requirements are from an accredited four-year program with a course of study that includes chemistry, biology/phsiology, psychology, management as well as courses in food science, nutrition and food service. On completion of the Bachelor’s program, graduates are required to complete an accredited six month-one year internship at a healthcare facility, community health agency or a food service corporation. At the completion of the internship, CDR must approve your eligibility to sit a national examination. After all this, we must complete 75 professional continuing education credits every five years to maintain your registration. In addition to the national credentialing, the majority of states require licensure or certification in order to practice. By law, only practitioners who have met at the minimum the education requirements can call themselves a dietitian. Anyone by definition can call themselves a nutritionist, they do not have to meet any of the above requirements. Previously in my home state of New York, anyone could apply for Certification and receive the CDN credential. Currently to receive the credential, candidates must sit the Registration exam and pass.
Now that we know what a registered dietitian is, let us discuss what is a clinical dietitian. Simply put, a clinical dietitian is a specialist who provides medical nutrition therapy (MNT) and is allowed by law to chart in a medical record. A registered dietitian is also allowed to make a diagnosis, most of us don’t by we do have that privilage. Clinical dietitians usually work in a healthcare setting to provide MNT based on the disease process. The clinical dietitian provides nutrition information to the individual and their families. When an assessment is done, they coordinate medical and nutrition needs of the patient in order to develop an individual plan based on their findings. Clinical dietitians can also be found in outpatient settings and oftentimes run the Food Service department at their facilities. This is briefly what a clinical dietitian does. Registered dietitians are also always reimbursable for the treatment of diabetes and by most carriers for obesity. To find a registered dietitian near you, ask your insurance carrier or visit the website of the ADA at www.eatright.org or your state’s chapter.