Dietitians are uniquely qualified to translate scientific information about nutrition and food into practical dietary advice. As well as providing impartial advice about nutrition and health, dietitians also advise about food related problems and treat disease and ill health.
Many dietitians work in the National Health Service (NHS) and may work in one or more specialist areas e.g. diabetes, children's health, cancer, renal, public health. Others work with people in the community, sometimes visiting them in their own homes. They are a key part of the healthcare team and have an important role training other Allied Health Professional’s (AHP’s) and the public about nutritional issues.
Dietitians have the only legally recognised graduate qualification in nutrition and dietetics that is registered with the Health Professions Council (HPC). This is a national regulatory body, which was created following the Health Professions Order, 2001. Dietitians are one of 13 healthcare professions regulated by the HPC, which ensures rigorously maintained standards of training, professional skills, behaviour and client safety. The title Dietitian/Dietician can only be used if the individual is appropriately qualified and registered with the HPC. Verification can be achieved by checking the Dietitians Register on the HPC website www.hpc-uk.org.
How does a dietitian differ from a nutritionist?
The title ‘nutritionist’ is not protected. Some may have attended degree level courses in nutrition, and upon qualification, many register as nutritionists (RNutr) or as public health nutritionists (RPHNutr) with The Nutrition Society. However, there are many who will not have a recognised qualification. Nutritionists work in government, industry, sports, education, media and for charities, supporting the collection and communication of information about food and health. Some nutritionists provide general guidance about eating to support good health, however, as they are not regulated by a governing body, information given does not have to comply with scientifically based evidence.
Want to become a dietitian?
There are two types of programme available to qualify as a dietitian:
• Full-time undergraduate BSc (Hons) programme - these are either three or four years in length.
• Full-time postgraduate programme - these are two years in length and can either lead to a Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip) in dietetics or a Masters (MSc) qualification in dietetics.
Find out more on The Association of UK Dietitians website.
Shadowing a dietitian
At North Bristol NHS Trust, we don’t routinely offer opportunities to shadow dietitians. Instead, we run virtual allied health professional events. This will give you the opportunity to find out more about what working as a dietitian in a hospital is like.