Dietary aides perform important roles in hospitals, nursing homes, schools and other institutions. Those who are looking for a job that helps other people may want to consider working as a dietary aide.
Dietary aides assist cooks and health-care staff in making sure patients and residents receive nutritious food that tastes good. Depending on the facility, dietary aides discuss food preferences with patients and diet needs with health-care staff. They also assist in menu planning, maintain diet records and make sure food is served in a clean, healthy, pleasant way. Other tasks are to clean and sanitize dishes, utensils and cookware, prepare the kitchen for inspections and assist with food ordering and storage.
Dietary aides may be among the first to notice changes in a patient’s eating habits, such as increased or decreased appetite or changes in food preferences.
Dietary aides may work days, afternoons or nights, depending on the facility’s needs.
Dietary aides generally have minimal contact with residents. However, that contact is usually pleasant as patients tend to look forward to meal times and associate dietary aides with meals. Dietary aides do not usually feed patients.
While on occasion, dietary staff may be invited to help themselves to leftover food, they are strongly discouraged from tasting the food, eating on the job and from helping themselves to food supplies. Those who do may be reprimanded or fired.
School dietary aides may be expected to oversee student behavior during meal and snack-times.
Most states require criminal background checks for all health-care and school personnel, including dietary aides.
Dietary aides work in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, prisons and rehabilitation centers.
Most dietary aides receive on-the-job training. Many vocational schools and community colleges offer courses in nutrition and food service. Some states require dietary aides to be certified in safe food handling practices. Information about certification requirements is available through local health departments.
Dietary aides face some safety hazards working in a commercial kitchen. There is some risk of cuts and burns during food handling. There may be some heavy lifting of food and kitchen equipment. While there is generally minimal patient contact, dietary aides must wear sanitary gloves and hair nets and take other precautions to prevent the spread of food-borne illnesses.
With additional training and experience, dietary aides may become cooks or dietitians. Qualifications for these positions vary by state.
Other dietary aides who enjoy direct patient care become home health aides or certified nursing assistants. Training for these jobs are available at community colleges and vocational schools.
Earnings and Outlook
According to Simply Hired.com, the average salary for dietary aides is $14,000. This can vary by experience, training, location and facility.
Because an aging population will continue to need more hospitalizations and long-term care, the need for all health-care workers, including dietary aides is expected to grow. However, because little-to-no training is required, competition for dietary aide jobs is expected to be high.