How Registered Dietitians Help Provide Better Patient Outcomes

Dietitian writing diet plan, view from above on the table with different healthy products and drawings on the topic of healthy eating

I recently read an article in the Washington Post discussing a bill being considered by the D.C. Council that would require doctors and nurses to complete two hours of nutrition study over a two-year period. The hope of B23-0360 – Continuing Nutrition Education Amendment Act of 2019  is to enable doctors and nurses to talk to patients about the role of food in causing and curing disease and counsel them on how to better care for themselves.

Contact our healthcare professionals at The Allergy and Asthma Center to learn how nutrition can impact allergies and asthma.

While some are on board, others are not. For example, Meedie Bardonille, who chairs the D.C. Board of Nursing which oversees the work of 24,000 registered nurses in the city, opposes the bill. She states, “Just having two hours doesn’t give us the time to make a huge impact. There is more to nutrition than just telling you to change your diet. It’s way more than reading a nutrition module online.”

As a registered and licensed dietitian and nutritionist (RDN) who has had the extensive schooling and training required to be a credentialed medical professional, I wholeheartedly agree with Ms. Bardonille – a 120-minute course with 730 days to complete is not enough for a physician to be effective in this role. In addition, I believe that patients would be much better served with an RDN as an incorporated member of their medical practice team, as I have been for Allergy & Asthma Center for more than 20 years. Here’s why:       

  • Registered Dietitians (RD) have in-depth knowledge about the role of food and nutrition in the prevention, treatment, and progression of acute and chronic disease and, how disease and treatment affect food and nutrition needs.
  • As part of the healthcare team, an RD spends a significant amount of time discussing a patient’s dietary and lifestyle habits and provides tips on nutritionally adequate meal plans appropriate for the patient’s nutrition related clinical conditions. While physicians value and recognize the extreme importance of nutrition, they rarely can commit to this amount of time in addition to their regular duties.
  • As stated by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Commission of Dietetic Registration (CDR), a Registered Dietitian (RD) is the qualified nutrition professional to provide necessary Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) to patients, clients and the community.
  • As part of an MNT intervention, RDs not only counsel individuals on behavioral and lifestyle changes that impact long-term eating habits and health, they:
    • Perform a comprehensive nutrition assessment
    • Diagnose
    • Plan and implement a nutrition intervention using evidence-based nutrition practice guidelines
    • Monitor and evaluate an individual’s progress towards goals

As you can see, there is a clear difference between advising patients on the basics of nutrition and the in-depth counseling provided by an RDN.  An additional 120 minutes of education for even the best and brightest doctor would not be enough to provide him or her the knowledge and skills needed to help individuals make the behavioral and lifestyle changes that can affect outcomes.

What do you think? Please add your comments and join the conversation!

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