A Day in the Life of a Consulting Dietitian
Mary Roberson would love to tell you that she’s seen and done it all in her 35 years as a consulting dietitian. But that’s simply not true, and it’s not something she’d dare tell any new dietitian she mentors at Health Technologies.
“There’s a term I’ve coined, and honestly, I know it’s an oxymoron — ‘You have to have a healthy sense of rigid flexibility,’” Mary said with a laugh. “You have to be self-motivated and organized, and you have to know what you need to accomplish in the timeframe you have available. But you also have to be flexible. There’s always something new that happens each day, so you still have to be able to roll with the day.”
She added, “That’s what I love about this job — you are never bored. You think you’ve seen it all, but you never will.”
Consulting dietitians are our boots on the ground for the many highly-skilled long-term care communities we support. Through their years of clinical education and hands-on experience, our dietitians work with dining managers and nursing directors to provide expert clinical consulting, innovative menu solutions, and training support for food service teams. They do a lot with the limited time they are there — and they do it better than anyone else.
But if you’re wondering what a day in their life is like, it’s difficult to pin it down to a general list of duties. As Mary and her colleagues point out, how and when they leap into action depends on a slew of factors, including the day, the type of facility (skilled nursing, assisted living, independent living, etc.), and what has changed since the last time they were there. They may be at one facility three times a week or just once per month. One facility may need them to dive deeper into what medications certain patients are taking, and another may have added 18 new residents since their last visit.
Whatever the case, they do it all with a smile and a commitment to excellence. The partnerships they provide ensure residents receive the individualized care they need, that food service is on-point, and everyone is on the same page.
“Our time in a facility is generally an 80/20 split, with 80% being in the documentation realm and 20% working with the dietary manager,” Mary said. “We document anyone who is newly admitted, has come back from the hospital, or has issues such as pressure wounds, tube feeding, significant weight loss or weight gain, dialysis, new to hospice, and even if they are not eating. The other 20% is spent doing a thorough meal observation to make sure portion sizes are good, that menus and recipes are being used correctly, and doing sanitation inspections. But again, a lot of that depends on the facility. Every facility is different, and we may be contracted to spend more time at one versus another.”
Rachel Allard has been a consulting dietitian with Health Technologies for two years. Whenever she gets to a facility each morning, she checks in to see if they have any meetings set up for her with residents for diet education or any nursing concerns. From there, she does a deep dive into the facility’s electronic medical records and tackles anything that may have changed from the last time she was there.
“It’s almost as if you are an extension of their team, and it’s nice having those close relationships. Some facilities may need me to be in the meetings they have. Others may need my help with care planning,” Rachel said. “It’s all about meeting their specific needs at that time. Beyond meeting with residents, I work with the dining manager to let them know what I see, what needs to be changed or replaced, and then I do at least one meal observation. When the day is done, I’ll create a full report so that they can implement those changes.” She added, “It's a balance, you have to figure out how to plan out your day and still be able to handle whatever new things arise.”
“Communication is a big part of what we do,” Rachel said. “We work with the director of nurses and the nurses on the floor to learn as much as possible about the various residents we may have to document on. We want information that may not be overly apparent in the resident chart. Over the course of a month, so many things can happen. Knowing all of that information adds validity to our assessments.”
A day in the life of a consulting dietitian isn’t easy — but it’s incredibly rewarding. Consulting Dietitians have the opportunity to travel or stay close to home while customizing their schedule of client visits. Mary, Rachel, and the rest of our consulting dietitians wouldn’t trade their job for anything in the world. They’re committed to providing the best care possible — no matter what the day may bring.