A Day in the Life of a Registered Dietitian and the Path to RD

September 12, 2018
Renee Wehring, RD
California State University, Los Angeles
Renee Wehring is a Registered Dietitian in Southern California, a fellow TID, and the former president of Cal State Los Angeles chapter of The Diabetes Link. Renee spends her free time rock climbing, dancing, swimming, and spending time with loved ones. You can follow her nutrition instagram page @T1DNutrition.

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was eleven years old. At that age I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. The first years of living with diabetes I was in denial. I neglected testing my glucose and I ate whatever I wanted. When I would visit my dietitian and diabetes educator I would lie about my eating habits. I wished I didn’t have diabetes and would often live like I didn’t. After a doctor visit in which I found my A1c was elevated and I had microalbumin in my urine, I started to realize I was only hurting myself when I was neglecting my diabetes. I began to tell the truth at my dietitian appointments and at that point I fell in love with the career. I saw how big of a difference my dietitian made in my life and decided that is what I would like to spend my life doing for others.

“I began to tell the truth at my dietitian appointments and at that point I fell in love with the career.”

After graduating high school I embarked on my journey to becoming a Registered Dietitian. In order to receive the RD certification you must first complete a Master’s degree in Nutritional Science. The requirement used to be a Bachelor’s Degree, but it has now changed to a Master’s Degree. Next you have to complete a dietetic internship through Diatetic Internship Centralized Application Service (DICAS), which is usually about one year long. There are various schools that provide internship opportunities with varying tuition fees and requirements. You must complete the applications and interviews before the deadline. I found that volunteering, being a part of CDN, and having a high GPA helped me match with an internship program. During the internship I was able to follow preceptors in clinical, outpatient, and food service settings to gain experience. Many internship programs require you to complete tests, quizzes, and projects. After completing all of my rotations I was eligible to take the Registered Dietitian Exam through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. I used the Inman Review and Visual Veggies to study for the exam. I studied for three months, six hours per day prior to the exam. Most people study for one to four months for the exam. The RD Exam is pass or fail and the results are given to you right after you finish the exam. If you fail you can take the exam again, but you must wait forty-five days before you can take the exam again. I passed on my first try thanks to all that studying! I was able to land my first job at one of the hospitals I was an intern at, so it is very important to always be on time and professional during your internship you never know where it may take you.

“Working as an RD is very rewarding and I am so happy I chose this job.”
Working as an RD is very rewarding and I am so happy I chose this job. I am currently working as a clinical dietitian in the intensive care unit and progressive step down unit.  I work closely with physicians, nurses, speech therapists, and pharmacists on a day-to-day basis. Every morning I look at my list of patients and determine which patients must be seen today. Because I am a clinical dietitian the hospital I work for provides me with a policy that explains if a patient has a certain diagnosis they must be seen in so many days. For example, a patient newly diagnosed with diabetes must be seen in 2 days. After determining which patients are due, I then screen the patients or in other words, write down the patient’s past medical history, labs, medications, last bowel movement date, nausea, vomiting, current diagnosis, any tests that have been ran such as an MRI or CT scans, food intake records, current diet the patient is on, and any food allergies the patient might have. After gathering this information for each patient, I go to visit the patient. I help to educate patients regarding the diet they are on and any health conditions related to nutrition they may have. If the patient has a certain diet they are supposed to be on I discuss with the doctor and then add it to their electronic medical record. If the patient is not meeting their nutritional needs I can provide nutritional supplements for the patient after getting approval from the doctor. I can also suggest vitamins and minerals to be added to the patient’s medication list if the doctor approves. I usually come into contact with patients that have diabetes, cancer, renal disease, cardiovascular diseases, GI issues, and patients on tube feeding or parenteral nutrition, but every day is different. For patients on tube feeding I am in charge of calculating the tube feeding requirements and selecting the formula that will be administered. I get a huge variety of patients and that is why I enjoy the clinical setting; I am always learning something new and exciting. Sometimes, patients are not ready to make diet and lifestyle changes but it is your job as a dietitian to use motivational interviewing to help point the patient in the right direction. Some patients are not receptive to the information, but most are. For every one patient that doesn’t want the diet education, there are five patients that are very thankful you came to help them. I have left patient’s bedsides with tears in my eyes because they have told me how much help and encouragement I have given them. Being a Registered Dietitian has truly brought happiness into my life because you have the ability to make a difference, inspire change, and help those in need.

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