The Many Hats of Dietitians

On Friday of this particularly hard week (that is over now, thank goodness), I was driving home from my North Little Rock clinic visit, with 30 #10 cans in the trunk of the company car, and I had a realization.

Who knew?

Who knew when I signed up to become a dietitian that I would wear all these hats. Who knew I would track 400 children's nutrition and growth? Who knew that I would meet with parents one day, compare food costs and consult with our company's CFO on how to lower food costs, meet with clinic directors, and do feeding therapy...and the next day I would spend in the kitchen because my cook didn't show up, cooking for 80 children and washing dishes for 2 hours? Who knew I would create menus and then have to cook the food that I ordered weekly if a staff member calls in? Who knew I would have days when I was not just mentally and emotionally exhausted from figuring out how to get tube fed children to want to eat but also physically exhausted from moving 30 #10 cans of fruit from one clinic to the next?

When I was in college, my internship director would often tell us stories of when she worked in a hospital setting. I remember one day she was giving the class an expose on her work as a Foodservice Director at Doctor's Hospital. She said that she kept an extra pair of scrubs in her office in case her line cook called in and she had no one to dish out mashed potatoes. This, she said, was the nature of the beast. Good money, but making sacrifices to keep it running smoothly, because ultimately, you are in charge of getting patients fed.

I snickered at this at the time and said "I will NOT do that!"

I officially am eating my words. They don't go down very easily.

Now I find that I have an extra scrub top in my office just in case, and when the cook calls in I suck it up and put on a white bonnet hairnet and get to work. Andy gets frustrated with me about this and says that if I don't do it or say I won't do it, then they'll find someone else. But, just as my teacher said, ultimately, the job is mine to get the kids fed efficiently, safely, and in a timely manner. So much hinges on them getting a good meal at the right time.

As a dietitian, I am flexible. When you are in school to be a dietitian you aren't particularly trained in one area. You are taught a variety of things and are expected to find your niche when you get your first job and are also expected to basically...figure it out. You have 2 weeks of a pediatric rotation but are expected to hop into a job full swing. You learn about geriatrics, pediatrics, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, sports nutrition, weight loss, diabetes, general health, maternity. You learn about how a bill becomes a law, writing nutrition grants, and legislation. You learn about how to calculate how many FTE's your staff equals, how to calculate your food cost and percentage of plate waste. You learn about how to replace an egg in a recipe and the aspartame controversy.

But you don't learn what to do when you can't feed a child because their tube feed button is messed up, or why the child with autism won't eat anything but Cheetos, or how to get a child to swallow correctly when they have an unrepaired submucous cleft, or what to say when a parent tells you they feed their child dog food.

And so, these are the many hats that I wear. Not to mention wife, daughter, sister, friend, aunt, and follower of Christ. There were times when I thought my decision to become a dietitian wasn't a good one, but as I learn and grow I realize how important we are to so many people and so many patients...and I can't help but smile at all of my different hats.

Matthew 19:26
"With God all things are possible."

1 comment:

Gina said...

Danya- You are appreciated in your many hats! I understand the concept of all the training in school, but really no training on specific things! It is soo frustrating. I wish we knew more of the answers. Thank God we have brains, resources and collaboration with others to at least try to figure things out!