A nutrition support dietitian, also known as a clinical dietician, develops diets and nutrition plans; provides advice about food preparation; and monitors the feeding process for patients unable to chew, swallow, or digest food without assistance. Such assistive feeding is necessary to ensure that these patients maintain a dietary intake that still promotes good health. The typical nutrition support dietitian is employed by hospitals, nursing homes, and other types of assisted living facilities. She usually coordinates with a patient’s doctor, nurse, or care provider to develop a diet that meets the medical and nutritional needs of the case. Like other dietitians, a nutrition support dietitian must have at least a bachelor's degree and may be required to obtain a license before she can engage in nutrition preparation or work as a dietitian. A nutrition support dietitian may work with patients who are grappling with eating disorders and athletes who must maintain a healthy sports diet.
Artificial feeding under the supervision of a nutrition support dietitian is important to a patient’s comfort and well-being. Sustenance provided in this manner helps an individual maintain his current weight or even gain weight if deemed necessary by the physician and dietitian. Nutrition plans also help patients maintain their energy levels and avoid physical weakness. Finally, the programs created by a nutrition support dietitian eliminate the pain and anxiety a patient unable to chew or swallow may experience during mealtimes.
There are two primary forms of feeding offered by a nutrition support dietitian following a joint consultation with a patient’s doctor: Enteral Nutrition (EN) and Parenteral Nutrition (PN). EN is recommended for patients who are unable to consume enough food due to difficulties chewing or swallowing. With this method of feeding, a nutrition support dietitian develops a nutritional fluid tailored to the needs of the patient. She then oversees the insertion of a feeding tube either down the patient’s nose and into the stomach or directly into the stomach via insertion through the abdomen.
PN provides nourishment through the bloodstream. As with EN, the nutrition support dietitian develops a liquid formula consisting of the proper nutrients. This formula is introduced directly into the bloodstream by inserting a tube into a patient’s vein.
The typical nutrition support dietitian holds a bachelor's degree in nutrition, dietetics, or food service management. Some colleges and trade schools may also offer specialized programs for students interested in careers as dietitians. Some countries, states, and municipalities also require dietitians to meet certain experience requirements and pass an exam prior to advising doctors about meal programs or working with patients.