Working as part of a health care team in hospitals and residential care centres, clinical dietitians are responsible for assessing the nutritional needs of patients/residents, planning appropriate therapeutic diets and educating patients and their families about any dietary changes needed. Clinical dietitians liaise with doctors, nursing staff and other allied health care professionals as well as the food service department in order to ensure the nutritional needs of patients/residents are met.
Clinical dietitians help people with health problems like diabetes, heart disease or swallowing difficulties and poor appetite as well as those recovering from illness or surgery. In order to work in specialist areas such as paediatrics, gastroenterology and renal nutrition, several years of experience and continual professional development is usually required. Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) status is usually required for clinical dietitian positions.
The responsibilities of a clinical dietitian in a hospital include care of inpatients and outpatients. The workload of a clinical dietitian will vary depending on their experience and expertise and also the size of the hospital. For example, in a large hospital there is usually a team of dietitians who are each allocated to look after particular wards such as general medical, surgical and intensive care. Alternatively, some hospitals will only have a sole dietitian employed or a consultant dietitian.
Clinical dietitians primarily work in the hospital setting (both private and public hospitals) although it is not uncommon for some work to be undertaken in community settings as well.
- Accredited Practising Dietitian
- Clinical Dietitian
- Clinical Specialist Dietitian
Clinical Dietitians have knowledge about diet-disease relationships and therapeutic diets to assist people with specific illnesses. They have skills in patient care and advocacy, teamwork, partnership & collaboration skills as working as part of a multi-disciplinary team occurs on a daily basis. Accordingly, clinical dietitians also develop skills in:
- Communication (e.g. people skills, relationship building)
- Time management, problem solving
- Influencing, negotiating and advocacy skills
- Being practical, understanding what is ‘realistic’ to achieve
- Improving the lives of others through health and nutrition
To give yourself the best opportunity to be job ready at the end of your degree, we recommend that you:
Volunteer at your local hospital or in non-government organisations (eg: Diabetes Australia) as this will give you an opportunity to be exposed to health issues important to the community
Find a mentor – mentoring through the APD program is a great way to learn from those with experience.
Join and become involved in the DAA - students are able to join for free
Attend Professional organisation events or seminars and set yourself a goal to meet two new people every time you attend
When searching for a paid job, be strategic and look for one in your area of interest or one that will give you skills to stand out in your area of interest
When you meet new people tell them (confidently and succinctly) what you want to do when you graduate. You never know but they may have a contact that they can introduce you to now or sometime in the future.
Master of Dietetics (required)
You can become an Accredited Practising Dietitian with the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) once you have graduated and complete the provisional APD year.