Dietitians are a key part of the healthcare team, using the science of nutrition to devise eating plans for patients to treat medical conditions. They also work to promote good health by encouraging positive food choices.

The work of a dietitian

Dietitians are qualified to translate scientific information about food into practical dietary advice. As well as providing advice about nutrition and health, dietitians also advise about food-related problems, treat diseases and ill health.

Many dietitians work in Health and Social Care (HSC) and may work in one or more specialist areas such as diabetes, children’s health or cancer. Others work with people in the community.

Dietitians assess patients according to their specific needs and their work may include:

  • creating nutritional care plans
  • counseling patients about diet
  • working closely with patients who need therapeutic diets, such as those with kidney disease, liver problems, food allergy, eating disorders or diabetes
  • helping to care for people who require liquid food given through a tube because of illness, injury or surgery

Dietitians also have a major role in nutrition and health promotion initiatives. They work in partnership with community groups and other agencies. Community dietitians provide nutrition training for primary care and community workers.

They promote good nutrition by developing and implementing nutrition strategies and policies, produce nutrition resources and work with the media.

Skills required

The work demands a high level of knowledge and expertise, therefore training will make sure that you have the necessary clinical skills.

You should also be able to explain complex issues in simple language, motivate clients and be sensitive to the different cultural issues and attitudes surrounding food.

Training programmes

BSc Hons Dietetics

This course is an Ulster University undergraduate full-time four-year programme. Applications for this course should be made through Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

PgD/MSc Dietetics

This is an Ulster University postgraduate full-time two-year programme.

You should contact the university directly for up to date entry requirements.

Career pathway

Dietitians work in a hospital or community setting and could go on to specialise in a clinical area, such as oncology, paediatrics, renal, diabetes or working with particular groups, such as elderly people or those with learning difficulties.

Teaching or health education are also options, or you could take on a management role, eventually being responsible for controlling a budget and planning and marketing a dietetic service. There is a recognised promotional pathway within the Northern Ireland HSC.

Professional recognition

The profession of ‘dietitian’ is a protected title with the regulator - the Health Professions Council (HPC). Eligibility for State Registration with the HPC is obtained on graduation following satisfactory completion of the course.

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