Nutrition is extremely important for our well-being. People who follow healthy eating patterns live longer and are much less likely to encounter heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and other serious health conditions. With just a few tips and insights about diet and nourishment, you can improve your nutrition for better energy levels, cognitive function, and more.

In honor of National Nutrition Month, UAB Medical West wants to take you on a journey of one of our clinical dietitians, Meridythe Schroder, as she goes about her day. We hope to raise awareness of proper nutrition and pull back the curtain on Schroder’s important job as a clinical dietitian as we raise awareness.

What Is a Clinical Dietitian?

A clinical dietitian develops nutrition plans for patients and counsels them about their eating and drinking habits. Clinical dietitians work in a healthcare setting and must be registered –but we’ll get into credentials later. 
Through nutrition therapy, clinical dietitians can treat or improve various conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and kidney disease, among others. Clinical dietitians may design an enteral (liquid-based) tube feeding regimen, curate personalized nutrition plans, select supplements, and much more to improve their patient’s well-being. It’s important to note that clinical dietitians aren’t nutritionists. Dietitians typically have undergone more education and credentialing compared to nutritionists. 

What Education Is Required to Become a Clinical Dietitian?

To become a clinical dietitian, you’ll need to complete a few years of school, pass certification tests, and log hours of experience. First, a Bachelor’s degree is required. Many undergraduate schools offer a Bachelor of Food and Nutrition, Nutrition Science, and other nutrition-focused majors. Our very own clinical dietitian, Meridythe Schroder, completed a Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutrition. However, a bachelor’s degree in a non-nutrition field isn’t required, but you must meet the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) requirements either way.
In years past, a Master’s degree wasn’t required to sit for the RD (registered dietitian) exam, but starting in January of 2024, a Master’s degree will be necessary. After achieving a Master’s degree, most likely a Master of Public Health Nutrition (MPH) like Schroder, you’ll complete an internship and take the RD exam. 
After you’ve passed the exam, many clinical dietitians' licenses require a Certified Nutrition Support Clinician (CNSC) by the National Board of Nutrition Support Certification. This certification recognizes training and a specialization in nutrition support, which is the practice of nourishing those who cannot consume an oral diet.
Additionally, if you’re interested in becoming a clinical dietitian, we recommend you check your state laws for more licensing and certification information, as laws vary from state to state. Schroder is licensed by the state of Alabama (LD) since she practices at UAB Medical West in Birmingham, AL. 

A Day in the Life of Meridythe Schroder, MPH RD LD CNSC

Now that we’ve learned a little bit about how Schroder became a clinical dietitian, let’s dive into a typical day in her life. 
She typically begins work at 7:00 AM to review which patients need to be seen for a nutrition assessment that day. There are various reasons Schroder needs to see a patient, such as patients with wounds, ICU patients, patients with unintentional weight loss, and those who’ve been referred by an MD, among other reasons. 
After these screenings, she completes her patient list. Her patient list can include upwards of 18 patients daily, but it averages around ten. As she makes her way around the surgical and med tele-floors and any of the 3 ICUs, Schroder places orders for IV nutrition, reviews patient charts, and speaks with patients to determine care plans.
After discussion with the MD for a specific patient, she can enter orders for tube feedings, TPN (total parenteral nutrition), diet orders, labs, multivitamins/minerals, and oral supplements, like Ensure®. She can also work with the UAB Medical West kitchen to meet the patient’s food preferences. 
As a clinical dietitian, there’s a great deal of collaboration between Schroder and other medical professionals at UAB Medical West to provide the highest quality of patient care. Throughout the day, Schroder frequently answers phone calls and discusses patient care with pharmacists, providers, nurses, and dietary staff. Schroder charts her nutrition assessments and reassessments at the end of her day. 

Benefits of Incorporating Nutrition into Your Daily Life

Schroder expressed the importance of nutrition best. She says, “nutrition is a critical component of recovery from illness, maintenance of immunity, successfully aging, improving energy levels, preventing debility, and maintaining cognitive function.” 
To improve your nutrition at home, Schroder shared a few simple tips that she applies to her life and teaches her patients at UAB Medical West. Some of these tips include:
Employ self-reflection to discover what motivates you to seek better health
Avoid fad diets or restrictive diets that are difficult to maintain long-term— these are often devoid of vital nutrients and can cause pancreatitis, gallstones, kidney stones, and elevated cholesterol levels
Practice moderation and mindful eating (including chewing food more thoroughly, following hunger/satiety cues, and using portion control)

Celebrate National Nutrition Month This March

At UAB Medical West, we empower patients to live healthier, happier lives. It’s our hope that with our clinical dietitian spotlight, along with her tips and tricks, you’ve learned more about the importance of proper nutrition.  We encourage you to celebrate National Nutrition Month by reflecting on your own nutrition and how you can make positive changes for your well-being. If you have any questions about your nutrition, contact our dietitian team today! 

Want to Learn More About Nutrition? Call Our Team Today! 

If you’re interested in learning more about healthy eating or think you may need to see our clinical dietitian, don’t hesitate to contact one of our 16 convenient locations for more information. We serve the communities of Hueytown, Hoover, Bessemer, McCalla, Vance, and more! Call us at (205) 481-7000 or contact us online today!