The leaving cert results are due soon and it’s the time of year for thinking about career options.
What is a Dietitian?
Dietitians are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems at an individual and wider public-health level. Uniquely, dietitians use the most up-to-date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices. Dietitians can only provide “evidence based advice” meaning it has to be clinically proven to be effective at achieving medical personal goals and not influenced by anecdotal, hearsay or the latest faddy trends.
The role of a Dietitian
Dietitians work with healthy and sick people in a variety of settings including the HSE, in private hospitals and private clinics. Dietitians can also work as nutrition experts within the food industry, workplace, sport, research and the media so your career could take many pathways!
Dietitians often work as integral members of multi-disciplinary teams to treat complex medical conditions such as diabetes, food allergy and intolerance, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), eating disorders, children’s nutrition, malnutrition, kidney failure and bowel disorders. Dietitians also provide expert advice to caterers to ensure the nutritional needs are met for all residents in the HSE and other care settings such as nursing homes. Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals that can be employed by the HSE. A key role of a dietitian is to train and educate other health care workers and we can also advise on diet to avoid the side effects and interactions between medications.
Is the title ‘dietitian’ protected by law?
At present, unfortunately anyone can use the term Dietitian, Nutritionist or Nutritional therapist without any professional training whatsoever. From 2016, thankfully only Dietitians registered with the statutory regulator CORU can officially use the title of ‘Dietitian’. The same applies to other professions e.g. Speech & Language Therapists, Radiographers etc. The role of CORU is to protect the public by promoting high standards of professional conduct, education, training and competence through statutory registration of health and social care professionals. All practicing Dietitians in Ireland are registered members of the Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute.
What about College Options?
The minimum requirement is a BSc Hons in Human Nutrition & Dietetics, or a related science degree with a postgraduate diploma or masters in Dietetics.The courses include biochemistry, physiology, psychology, communications and research methods which underpin nutrition and dietetics. The only degree course in Ireland is split between Trinity College and DIT and leaving certificate Chemistry is required. I took the slightly longer route and completed my four year degree in Nutritional Sciences at UCC Cork, followed by two years full time post-graduate study in Dietetics at Leeds Metropolitan University. All college courses require a six month period of supervised practice in a variety of HSE / NHS settings, where an individual must demonstrate clinical and professional competence to be eligible to graduate. If you have a keen interest in food, cooking, and health and enjoy helping people, then Dietietics could be the career choice for you.