Work in Specialised Area of Nutrition and Understand Nutrition and Health
Nutritional disorders may be acute or chronic conditions that affect the lives of many people. They include intolerance and sensitivities to certain foods or by-products and can be genetic or acquired conditions. Various specialists may be involved in work in this sector including psychologists and dieticians.
Scope of Work
The nature of work undertaken by people who treat nutritional disorders is quite varied with the role. Psychologists or psychiatrists assist people with mental health disorders related to eating (e.g. binge eating disorder, anorexia, bulimia), whereas GPs and dieticians can help people deal with physical eating disorders and chronic diseases (e.g. obesity, diabetes, heart disease). These people may form part of a multidisciplinary team which helps a person with various aspects of their diet, lifestyle, mental and physical wellbeing.
Those concerned with mental aspects of eating disorders are likely to spend time:
- Assessing the person's behaviour and symptoms
- Devising interventions
- Helping the person to deal with - self-esteem issues, triggers which maintain the condition
- Monitoring progress
Those concerned with the physical aspects of eating disorders may:
- Identify & isolate certain substances from a person's diet
- Work with the person to create a suitable dietary plan
- Take physical measurements
- Monitor progress
What You Need to Learn
- Assessment - mental or physical state, suicidal ideation , referral procedures
- Physical health - chronic diseases, signs & symptoms; heart disease, obesity, diabetes
- Mental health - mental disorders, signs & symptoms; anorexia, bulimia, binge eating
- Nutrition - digestive system, food chemistry, essential nutrients, diet plans
- Terminology - medical terms and meanings
- Psychopharmacology - use & effects of medications
- Communication skills - verbal, non-verbal, educating clients
- Specific knowledge - knowledge relating to your particular role
- Legal & ethical issues - patient confidentiality, consent, multicultural competence, legislation
- Health & safety - knowledge of OH&S procedures
- Writing skills - note taking, report writing, record keeping
- Planning skills - organising work, planning appointments, working out schedules
Starting a Career
Work in nutrition disorders is specialist work so most people who end up in this field do so having trained in related professions. If you are interested in food related health conditions you might start out by working towards jobs in the nutrition industry where you can gain experience and learn about nutrition. For example, you could work towards a job as a food coach or nutritionist and then take further training and courses.
Some ways to expose yourself to this field include learning about diet. You could, for example, take an interest in cooking programs or watch videos online which explain what different ingredients contain and how that affects our bodies. Also, getting involved in cooking is also helpful - if you are going to advise people how to create or change diets, you have to be giving them advice that they can actually use.
You also need to know about disorders. Some ways you can build your knowledge to help get introductory or support roles include:
- Try contacting government departments and asking for dietary advice
- Start to build your own portfolio of diets for different conditions
- Network with like-minded people; consult dieticians and ask how they get started
Progressing a Career
In order to progress a career in nutritional disorders you'll need to take professional development opportunities. This can lead to you becoming more specialised. Those working in government positions may be provided with workshops and training initiatives but those in private practice will need to look for ways to boost their skills and knowledge outside the workplace.
You can continue to make advances in your career by:
- Joining professional bodies or organisations which represent your industry
- Going to conferences
- Networking - talk to others who share your passion, join online chat groups
- Write - write about nutrition disorders for websites, journals, books, etc.
- Taking courses - intensive and online courses
- Diversify - learn new skills so you can take on further responsibilities or move into new areas