Scientists are still struggling to come up with a potent cure for COVID-19. Patients of this disease mostly rely on interventions that can keep them from succumbing to the virus. Among these interventions are healthy diets.
There has already been a growing demand for nutritionists as more and more people become aware of the benefits of good nutrition. Now, the coronavirus pandemic looks to make this career more appealing for people thinking of a job change.
Nutritionists And What They Do
A nutritionist or dietitian is someone with expertise in the use of food and nutrition to promote good health. They advise people on the right food to eat to manage medical conditions or maintain a healthy lifestyle.
NYCC states that nutritionists are trained to determine what’s best for clients based on their health status. They develop meal plans and modify them as needed periodically based on evaluations. Nutritionists also stay up-to-date with the latest scientific research on nutrition and its health outcomes. Public education on matters relating to diets is part of what nutritionists do.
While these professionals largely do similar things, they can also have areas of specialization. Specialties include:
- Clinical Nutritionists Or Dietitians: As the name suggests, these specialists work in clinical settings such as hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and private practice. They provide nutrition advice and create customized meal plans for patients. In some cases, they may specialize in working with patients having only certain medical disorders.
- Management Nutritionists: These experts are in charge of meal planning programs. They may supervise kitchen staff and other dietitians while also being involved in food purchases and other business tasks. Hospitals, cafeterias, and several other institutions are typical places where management nutritionists work.
- Community Nutritionists: They are mostly involved in enlightenment programs relating to nutrition and health. Community nutritionists educate the public on what to eat to achieve desired health outcomes. In most cases, they work with specific sections of the public, including the elderly or adolescents.
Coronavirus And The Growing Demand For Nutritionists
The present coronavirus pandemic has again justified the famous saying, “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.” It has once again brought attention to the importance of healthy diets. This is in connection to how these can benefit the immune system.
It is well-known that malnutrition weakens the immune system. Unhealthy diets make people less able to fight infections and diseases. They not only make people fall ill but also cause them to remain sick. Sadly, this increases the risk of mortality.
Scientists have observed that people with weak immune systems or pre-existing medical conditions are more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus. Persons with obesity, kidney issues, diabetes, and heart conditions are more likely to die due to the virus. These conditions have a link to what people eat.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), poor diet played a part in roughly 600 million illnesses in 2010. They also led to an estimated 420,000 fatalities in that year. Bring the coronavirus into the picture and the figures are likely to surge dramatically.
Before the advent of COVID-19, more people appeared to be taking a keener interest in the choice of what they eat. There seems to be a greater awareness of how diets can impact health.
As would be expected, even more people are now looking to nutrition for protection against the coronavirus. There are no proven treatments or vaccines yet for the virus, so the natural immune system is practically all people have for now to stay safe—a healthy diet can help bolster that.
This situation makes this period one of the best times to be a nutritionist. People need someone to guide them on healthy foods and to properly help develop meal plans. It could get somewhat confusing sometimes trying to figure out what a healthy diet constitutes.
This is a good time to consider becoming a nutritionist if you desire a career change.
The job prospect for nutritionists is impressive. Jobs are projected to increase at a level faster than the national average for all jobs in the coming years. An estimate has it that employment would increase by roughly 11 percent in the 10 years from 2018 to 2028. It can be expected that COVID-19 should now raise that reading.
What Qualities Do You Need To Become A Nutritionist Or Dietitian?
You need to possess scientific knowledge and be up-to-date with the latest relevant research to work as a nutritionist. Here are some qualities that would help in becoming one:
- Compassion: Good nutritionists are usually caring people. You need to have empathy for people to enable you to give proper aid in combating issues with dietary interventions.
- Inquisitiveness: You have to be someone who is always eager to learn about the latest trends. It is crucial to stay on top of new findings in food and nutrition research.
- Analytical Skills: As a nutritionist, you’d be working with lots of information. You must be able to critically analyze research data because sifting through information, establishing links, and helping your clients make sense out of the findings is a big part of your work.
- Communication Skills: You are going to be doing a great deal of direct communication with clients so it’s vital to have good speaking and listening skills. Being able to translate technical information into regular conversations that clients can understand is also a must. Careful listening is crucial as well in order to properly grasp the client’s problem or goal.
Requirements And Workplace
In many places, the title of a nutritionist is not a strictly regulated one. You will need a license to practice in some places while a certificate or registration will suffice in some others. There are reportedly a few states in the US that don’t regulate this field at all.
In essence, what you need to practice as a nutritionist varies between states. The constant thing is that you’d need to undergo training, the length of which depends on what individual states require.
Many states require you to have a bachelor’s or associate’s degree, requiring four- or two-year training respectively. A certificate, which you only need a few weeks or less than a year to get, is all that is required in some other places.
For someone desiring a career change, a Master’s degree can make that easier. You can become a certified nutritionist with that in no more than two years and entirely online. It’s not obligatory to have a healthcare background, although such would help. Accredited programs give you an opportunity of getting national certifications for licensure and better job opportunities.
Apart from private practice, qualified nutritionists can work in many places. The largest proportion works in hospitals, including private and government-owned. They also work in nursing homes, clinics, cafeterias, and schools, among others. Practitioners can consult for private clients or healthcare institutions.
COVID-19 has reminded everyone of how quickly a deadly virus can change the landscape of the world. The daily routines of people have been altered drastically and have made everyone more conscious about their safety and hygiene. Not only that, but people have also turned to healthier diets to help counter the spread of the virus. With the further increase of general diet consciousness, the demand for nutritionists has also skyrocketed. The general public turns to nutritionists to help them stave off the virus, while scientists scramble to look for a cure.