Nutritionists may work in hospitals or medical centers or be self-employed, with duties such as planning food and nutrition programs and supervising meal preparation. The minimum education to become a nutritionist is a bachelor's degree and, depending on the state, certification or registration. To succeed in this profession, it helps to have certain personality traits and skills.
Nutritionists not only need the knowledge they learned while obtaining their degree, but they need to keep up to date through continuing education seminars, classes and reading in the field. Nutritional guidelines change as new studies are published, and nutritionists need to keep current on these modifications. Because nutritionists seek to prevent and treat illnesses, they should also seek out continuing education in the medical field.
Because nutritionists work with a wide variety of people, both individually and in groups, they must be able to deal with difficult individuals and feel comfortable in front of a crowd. In a clinical setting they meet with patients to assess their diets and assign new guidelines, then following up on the clients' progress. They need to work with doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to ensure that nutritional guidelines are implemented. Many nutritionist hold community informational sessions for health clinics or health maintenance organizations.
Nutritionists need to have a considerable amount of patience and understanding in working with a variety of patients. One of the fastest-growing sectors in the field, gerontological nutrition, addresses the needs of older people. Elderly patients may resist change or be unable to comprehend the need for dietary changes. Diabetic patients, many of whom have type 2 diabetes due to obesity, may resist cutting out sugary or unhealthy foods, and nutritionists need to be able to anticipate and respond to this resistance.
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