When I tell people, I’ve just met at a social gathering, that I’m a Dietitian they do one of three things:
- They find out then want to ask me 25 questions about their own diet, or what their friend did, or tell me a story about their diet that is different to what we would recommend #killmenow. Just like you don’t like talking about your job at a social gathering, we don’t want to have to do an assessment and give you free advice that I paid >$50k for.
How many carpenters do you know that will build your house for free…..? Same thing. Sometimes I contemplate what else I could say I do to avoid this buzzkill. Unfortunately, I haven’t landed on anything yet; Receptionist? Retail assistant? Surgeon?
- They acknowledge my position but in later conversation, refer to me as a “Nutritionist”, which irks me but I try to let it pass. Of course, that depends on how much I’ve had to drink.
- Blank expression followed by “what’s that?” or similar, this doesn’t bother me as I have no problem talking about what I do, in fact I enjoy it. However, it does highlight the misinformation or lack of surrounding the field of dietetics.
So, what is a Dietitian? What do we do?
According to information found on the DAA website (Dietitians Association of Australia):
“A Dietitian is a person with a qualification in nutrition and dietetics recognised by a national authority. The Dietitian applies the science of nutrition to the feeding and education of groups of people and individuals in health and disease.”
Put simply, all Accredited Practising Dietitians are indeed Accredited Nutritionists as we have all studied nutrition at the required level, but we’re far more than that.
The most important differences between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist are:
Our level of education is accrued over around 4-5 years at university including bachelors and/or masters with a practical component attached. On the other hand, a Nutritionist can have a university degree if they like or they can fast-track an online course and call themselves a “Nutritionist” in 6 weeks. Hell, if we are getting honest you can call yourself a nutritionist right now, without knowing a single thing about nutrition. And you wonder why I don’t like you calling me a nutritionist?
Dietitians MUST be registered by the DAA to practise whereas Nutritionists can register to the Nutrition Society of Australia (NSA) and/or DAA but there is no legal requirement to do so. This is why people need to be careful as anyone can market themselves as a Nutritionist without being verified and/or certified by a governing body.
In Australia, only Dietitians are legally able to prescribe medical or clinical treatment and consultations whereas Nutritionists are not qualified to do so. All Dietitians can work as Nutritionists if they want to, but Nutritionists without completion of university dietetic qualifications, cannot work as Dietitians.
One of the best things about seeing a Dietitians is that you can save money. We are recognised by Medicare and Department of Veteran Affairs! This means if you have a consult with us you may be eligible for a rebate on our services with a suitable referral from your GP. Most private health fund extras cover also cover dietitian consultations and as such you can claim a rebate at the time of your appointment. Look into it. In short, we will not only save your life 😉 but also save you money.
I hope this article has cleared the air on some misconceptions surrounding the field of Dietetics, as well as informed you of things you may not have been aware of. The world of diet and nutrition is vast and overwhelming but we are the best equipped – and qualified to assist you.