It is impossible to work in a medical field without feeling overwhelmed by the myriad of acronyms used to refer to professionals:
MD – medical doctor
NP – nurse practitioner
RN – registered nurse
PT – physical therapist
SLP – speech and language pathologist
But there is one acronym that people are less familiar with: RD (registered dietitian).
While nutrition as a practice continues to gain respect within the medical field, dietitians still struggle to assert themselves as specialists among their peers. One of the greatest barriers to asserting the RD’s expertise is the volume of other “specialists” – namely nutritionists and nutrition coaches.
The question of what it takes to call oneself a “nutritionist” is is a hugely controversial issue within the field of nutrition. There are no qualifying criteria, no state-level licensures, no national board exams required to be a nutritionist. That doesn’t mean that certain nutritionists aren’t highly educated in the field of nutrition. But it does mean that nutritionists are not legally certified (or insured) to give nutrition advice on an individualized level.
The registered dietitian designation was created to help individuals identify nutrition experts. That doesn’t mean that I agree with every RD’s approach to food, advice, or counseling. But those two letters do tell me that the individual holds at least one degree in nutrition and completed at least 1200 hours of supervised practice hours in clinical dietetics, community development, and food service and management. When an individual refers to himself as a nutritionist, he may have completed one weekend worth of nutrition seminars – or less.
So next time you get overwhelmed by the ABCs of nutrition, remember that the RD should be your first stop for nutrition advice and information. I hope that as an RD-to-be you will utilize me as your go-to nutrition expert here on spinning.com!
Questions or comments? Send them my way: Katie@theaspiringrd.com.