Last month, the Master of Science in Applied Nutrition program at the University of New England co-hosted the 7th Annual Bariatrics Conference with Southern Maine Health Care, where one of the topics was the role of a bariatric dietitian.
In order to more fully understand this profession within the health industry, we sat down with conference presenter Shannon Wickman, RD, LD. We discussed the function of bariatric dietitians and explored her thoughts on the future of this branch of healthcare.
Bariatric dietitians work primarily as part of bariatric programs, which are the programs that offer weight loss surgery for patients with morbid obesity.
A significant component of weight loss surgery is diet and lifestyle change prior to surgery – and that is where most bariatric dietitians do the bulk of their work. They work with patients to help them get ready for their weight loss surgery by modifying the patient’s diet and lifestyle approach.
The process can take six months to a year, depending on the patient. The preoperative period is generally fairly intense, with the bariatric dietitian seeing the patient every two to four weeks or so. Visits taper off postoperatively as the patient experiences more success.
I would say yes. Postoperative follow-up and careful patient monitoring improve the odds for successful surgical outcomes, and bariatric dietitians play a very important part in this process. Additionally, sometimes working with a patient can be similar to nutrition counseling. There are many complex emotions that are wrapped up in being overweight, deciding to have surgery, and getting the people around you to embrace the changes that you are making in order to be more successful. The sessions can become fairly intense and emotional.
Most bariatric dietitians function as a part of team, with most teams consisting of the surgeon, the program manager, the dietitian, and a behavioral health specialist like a psychiatrist, psychologist, or Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
Often, the entire program team will meet monthly to discuss all of the patients in the pre-op process, and the bariatric dietitian generally has a significant amount of authority in judging whether the patient is ready to have surgery.
Most bariatric dietitians hold their counseling sessions using some combination of one-on-one appointments, support groups, and classes. The counseling format used by the program depends on the size of the program. Large programs tend to have so many patients that they hold group classes led by a bariatric dietitian.
For the initial consultation within smaller programs, the bariatric dietitian will see patients one-on-one in an office setting for about an hour, set the expectations of the program, work together to set goals, and then schedule a follow-up appointment. Follow up appointments are then 30-minute sessions every three to four weeks.
There is not one single “required” degree to become a bariatric dietitian. There are different routes. I have a B.S. in Nutrition, and I did a coordinated program, so there’s the classroom component, and there’s a clinical component similar to nursing school. Some programs are coordinated so that you do classwork some days, and then you’ll go to a hospital and do your clinical rotation. That’s what I did.
The majority of bariatric dietitians have their Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and then apply for their clinical rotation. Many dietitians will also do a Master’s in Nutrition at that same time as they do their clinicals. Regardless of which way you go about it, you can’t practice as a Registered Dietitian without sitting for and passing the board exam.
Yes, It’s definitely an area of growth in the healthcare realm, because bariatric surgery itself is on the rise. Because of the growing rates of obesity in our country, bariatric surgery is now approved by most insurance companies. There is also the fact that bariatric surgery continues to prove to be the best treatment for someone once they reach a certain BMI or weight.
Many aspects involved in the bariatric field mirror the coursework and learnings that students of the Applied Nutrition program experience. With three dedicated focus areas built into the curriculum, UNE Online allows students to select preferred areas of study that support their individual career goals. This construct equips each student with many of the tools and skills Shannon highlighted, such as adept communication across teams, effective practices for nutrition counseling, and successful program development in community nutrition. Whether you’re interested in becoming a bariatric dietitian, or a professional in the nutrition industry, UNE Online provides you with a relevant education to help you reach your career goals.
The Master of Science in Applied Nutrition program at UNE Online strengthens each student’s potential to remain competitive in the industry, and many have recognized the coursework as highly applicable to their current positions. Earning your master’s degree with UNE Online also helps you meet the degree requirement changes taking effect in 2024 for all nutrition professionals.
To learn more about how UNE Online can help you reach your professional goals in nutrition, contact a dedicated member of our enrollment team by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (855)751-4447.
Watch Shannon’s presentation on the advantages of the bariatric support group model and strategies on keeping patients engaged, at the 7th Annual Bariatrics Conference, held at the University of New England:
Interested in getting your Master’s in Applied Nutrition? Let’s chat! Give us a call at 1(855) 751-4447 or reach out via email at email@example.com. You can also download additional Applied Nutrition program information:
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Hello. I have completed my bachelor’s in homescience and master’s in dietitics and food service management. I am currently working with gastro surgeon in dehradun, uttrakhand, India. Would like to enroll in this program. Kindly suggest and guide.
We’re excited to hear that you’re interested in getting your Master of Science in Applied Nutrition! Please give us a call at 1(855) 751-4447 or reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can discuss your interest further.
Isowmiyan Seshadri is a Sr. Clinical Nutritionist & Coordinator at Apollo Hospital Chennai. I had completed Post graduate in Clinical Nutrition and dietetics and patient care management. I underwent Registration Dieticain Internship at PSG hospital Coimbatore and Mallya Hospital Bangalore in 2012.Till 2016 i worked as Consultant Nutritionist at bangalore. In the span of 7 years i counselled 9500 patients. Then i underwent Bariatric Nutrition and Coordinator course under IFSO APC on Goa 2016.I has had the best active member award by IDA bangalore chapter on 2016 at bangalore.I had been presented first international presentation on Bariatric Nutrition comparative study in IFSO EC 2018 at Dubai .I is a life member of IDA, NSI, OSSI, IFSO, ISPEN.
Now I’m looking for a international Certificate Program in the Field of Bariatric Nutrition and Research
We love to hear that you’re interested in higher education in nutrition! We currently offer a 100% online Master of Science in Applied Nutrition. If you are interested in learning more about how this degree could fulfill your professional interests, please feel free to contact an enrollment counselor at (855) 751-4447 or email email@example.com.