Dieticians apply their specialist scientific knowledge of food and human nutrition to maintain and promote the health of individuals and the community. They also help in the treatment of diseases and medical conditions by giving nutritional advice and devising eating plans based on an individual’s needs.
In addition, they work alongside medical and health professionals, such as doctors in general practice, surgeries and community centres. Some even work with food manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies.
Aside from the aforementioned responsibilities, graduates who are looking to work in this field can generally expect the following tasks on a day-to-day basis:
- Communicating with patients and evaluating their needs
- Developing diet plans that patients can adopt to improve their health and lifestyle
- Treating patients with symptoms or conditions that are triggered by eating specific foods
- Supporting people who are unable to eat after a surgery or serious injury to ensure that they receive the nutrition they need
In Singapore, dieticians are considered Allied Health Professionals, and there are three common types of dieticians that graduates can become: clinical dieticians, community dieticians and food dieticians.
Clinical dieticians typically work within a multidisciplinary healthcare team in a hospital. They deal with the nutritional well-being of patients and come up with specific dietary strategies to combat and manage illnesses or injuries.
They also provide counselling services and customise a nutrition plan for patients who are unable to consume their meals orally and are required to be fed through a tube or directly into their bloodstream.
Community dieticians, on the other hand, are involved in promoting health and nutrition to the public. They engage with different parties and stakeholders in the community, such as schools, restaurants and caterers, in their effort to educate the public and raise awareness on healthy eating.
Food service dieticians play a role in the management of food service operations, where they ensure the delivery of correct and appropriate meals to patients, safe food handling and training of kitchen staff.
To become a dietician in Singapore, graduates must have completed a formal degree. The minimum qualification for the job, according to the Ministry of Health, is a BSc in Dietetics or BSc in Food and Nutrition; with a Postgraduate Diploma in Dietetics.
Besides that, graduates can only qualify as a dietician when they have completed a six-month clinical training period.
As for soft skills, communication skills are important for aspiring dieticians as they will have to explain complex health concepts in layman’s terms. The ability to communicate is crucial considering that a major part of a dietician’s job is to interact with and educate patients and other stakeholders on the benefits of healthy eating.
Also, dieticians should have strong evaluation, analysis and decision-making skills in order to identify the root cause of a health condition and draw up the right nutrition plan for a patient.
Pros and cons
Dieticians will find job satisfaction in helping others maintain and manage a healthy diet. There are also various work opportunities within the field of dietetics that graduates can explore. For instance, they can be working in a clinical setting with patients, or they can choose to travel and educate the general community about healthy eating.
However, some experienced dieticians share that there are difficulties that come with the job. One of the least favourite parts about their job as a dietician involve working with difficult patients and clients. Diet plans can sometimes be tough to commit to, especially when the patient or client is used to a very different diet or lifestyle before.
Hence, it can sometimes be discouraging to see patients who do not make progress because of their lack of discipline to avoid certain foods or drinks.