10 Things Most People Don’t Know about Registered Dietitians

By Sheri Witzer, MEd, BSN, RD, RN, CDE

Today  March 13, 2019  is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, which was designated by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to increase awareness of registered dietitian nutritionists as the indispensable providers of food and nutrition services and to recognize RDs/RDNs for their commitment to helping people enjoy healthy lives. In celebration of this day, VMS BioMarketing asked one of our expert Nurse Educators to share a few of the lesser-known details about the profession. Sheri Witzer is a registered dietitian, a registered nurse, and a Certified Diabetes Educator®.

1.       Registered dietitians help people understand, prevent, and treat acute and chronic disease, as well as guide them along a healthful journey throughout the lifespan. They create individualized meal plans, and they can help modify favorite recipes for more healthful meals and treats.

2.       Anyone can use the title “nutritionist”; however, a registered dietitian must meet the credentialing requirements to earn an RD (registered dietitian) or RDN (registered dietitian nutritionist) designation.

3.       There are almost 95,000 registered dietitians in the US as of February, 2016, according to the Commission on Dietetic Registration. You may have noticed: the majority are female.

4.       RDs or RDNs must pass the National Registration Exam for Dietitians. They are only eligible to sit for the exam after completing a Bachelor of Science degree, usually in nutrition and dietetics, or the equivalent, and completing a supervised practice program, similar to a medical residency.[1]

5.       Approximately 50% of registered dietitians hold an advanced degree.[2]

6.       RDs must become experts in medical nutrition therapy, food and drug interactions, food safety, food service, community health, and food science in order to pass the credentialing exam. After learning all of the technical information, RDs must also learn how to translate facts into clear messages to educate and empower people to make and maintain healthy lifestyle changes.

7.       RDs are nationally certified and usually state licensed. They are required to submit continuing education learning plans for approval. Then, they must earn 75 continuing education units per five-year recertification cycle in order to keep up with new research developments.[3]

8.       Many dietitians have an area of expertise, such as cancer, diabetes, pregnancy, sports nutrition, public health, kidney disease, GI disorders, pediatrics, or research.

9.       Patients, physicians, and other members of the healthcare team rely on clinical dietitians to calculate exact nutrient requirements (protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals, etc.) for restoring the health of critically ill patients.

10.    The growth of the RD career from 2016-2024 is expected to be 16%; average job growth is 7%.[4]

On behalf of VMS BioMarketing, we wish all RDs and RDNs a happy and healthy Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day!

[1] Registration Eligibility Requirements for Dietitians. Commission on Dietetic Registration website. https://www.cdrnet.org/certifications/registration-eligibility-requirements-for-dietitians  Accessed February 24, 2016.

[2] Registered Dietitians Bring Food and Nutrition Expertise to the Table. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website handout. http://www.eatrightpro.org/~/media/eatrightpro%20files/career/career%20development/flyers%20and%20handouts/rd_expertise_to_the_table.ashx  Accessed February 24, 2016.

[3] Professional Development Portfolio. Commission on Dietetic Registration website. https://www.cdrnet.org/pdp/professional-development-portfolio-guide  Accessed February 24, 2016.

[4] Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Dietitians and Nutritionists. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dietitians-and-nutritionists.htm Accessed February 24, 2016.