A Day in the Life of a Registered Dietitian

Registered Dietitians across the country provide services in a variety of settings to support the treatment and prevention of disease, including working in public health settings, academia, and research. A growing number work with the food and nutrition industry and business, sports nutrition, and corporate wellness programs. The majority of RDs (Registered Dietitians) work in hospitals and communities such as Compass Community Living’s partnering organizations.

What might a day look like for an RD (Registered Dietitian)? We asked a few out of the 500 Compass Community Living employed RD’s who gave an insight into their daily functions.

Karen Knauss is an RD with 23 years of experience and currently works at Sanctuary at Holy Cross in South Bend, Indiana. She came into the field with a desire to provide human care in the medical field.

– “What I really like about my job is working one on one with residents in the long-term care and rehab setting to impact their day-to-day life, including educating them how good nutrition is a lifestyle”

Karen’s day starts at 8 am reviewing emails, resident weight updates from the previous day, and organizing what needs to be done for the day.

Between 8:45 am- 9:30 am she participates in several interdisciplinary meetings:

  1. The daily morning meeting (with social workers, physical therapists, nurses) to give and receive updates for the group on Resident’s status
  2. The daily clinical meeting with the Nurse Practitioner to review new admissions and clinical changes in the residents
  3. The “Nutrition at Risk” meeting to discuss any residents at elevated risk of malnutrition, such as those with significant weight changes or skin breakdown

The rest of Karens day includes:

  • Completing comprehensive nutrition assessments for new rehab admissions or MDS* (minimum data sheet) quarterly nutrition reviews.
  • Visit with residents to obtain nutrition history, complete NFPE (Nutrition Focused Physical Exam) and/or see if any changes in medical or nutrition status have occurred since last review.
  • Meet with Dining Services Director to provide updates or discuss resident satisfaction concerns
  • Other duties throughout the day may include:
    • completing menus selections for residents
    • completing quality assurance audits
    • reviewing a special event menu
    • completing online education modules as needed
    • policy and procedural updates/editing

*MDS (Minimum Data Sheet) is a standardized, primary screening and assessment tool of health status which forms the foundation of comprehensive assessment for all residents of LTC (Long Term Care) facilities certified to participate in Medicare or Medicaid.

At Fraser Village, 21-year experienced RD Yala Vohs is active in participating and planning community life team events such as talent shows, Christmas caroling, Halloween parties and National Nutrition month with the objective to improve the quality of life for residents. She also loves surprising staff with food and beverage treats to show her appreciation.

In addition to clinical resident care, Michelle Hueber works directly with MyUSuite at The Sanctuary at McAuley to edit and print meal tickets and update diet rosters. Michelle chose dietetics as a 2nd career with a passion for cooking and after previous experience as a nursing home administrator.

– “I was a nontraditional student and went to several local community colleges and ended up finishing my degree through Western Michigan University.” Michelle then completed her dietetic internship at Michigan State University.

Susan O’Donnell, Clinical Nutrition Manager @ Shore Medical, has worked in dietetics for 32 years. She enjoys working with peers and mentors in the ever-evolving science of nutrition and helping others improve their daily lives.

“As a child, I had a fascination for recipes and created scrapbooks filled with pictures of colorful food. I knew I wanted to go into dietetics in the 7th grade! I was then introduced to my sister’s college roommate who was studying dietetics, which confirmed my path.”

Susan explains below what a typical day looks like for her:

8:00 am-12:30 pm Susan starts her day greeting the clinical nutrition team and organizes the assignments for the day, including patients referred to nutrition services from the nursing nutrition risk screening or physician consults and any follow up assessments due. She then checks her emails and follows up on any deliverables or communication needs.

The rest of the morning is spent reviewing the electronic medical record for patient data, including medical history, reason for visit, medication summary, ultrasound or x-ray results, diet order, I/O’s, laboratory values, gastrointestinal status, and patient weight changes.

She then checks in with medical staff, nursing and social service for any updates needed prior to visiting patients and patients’ families at bedside where interviews for a nutrition assessment occur.

Next is attendance of medical rounds in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and medical-surgical unit for interdisciplinary discussion and patient’s updates. She may share how patients are eating, what supplements she recommends, advocate for enteral nutrition support, or explain end of life planning. Perform hand hygiene and other audits as time allows.

12:30 pm Lunch- the RDs and other nutrition department team members try to eat together to connect socially or update each other on how the day is going.

1:00-4/5 pm:

  • Patient assessments are documented and any nutrition orders for patients, such as a diet order change or nutrition supplements, are completed in the electronic medical record.
  • P&T (Pharmacy and Therapeutics) committee attendance, where she presents a new protocol for parenteral nutrition
  • She then pulls 5 patient charts to review quality assurance; checking to see if RD’s are following the Nutrition Care Process, including all pertinent assessment information, nutrition diagnosis statements, and monitoring parameters. These are all kept in each RDs personnel file.

Whether it be planning nourishing meals for patients and residents, engaging with other hospital or community disciplines, or completing comprehensive nutrition assessments, the RDs daily focus is on providing nutrition quality care. With each day, the impact RDs have on the lives of patients, residents, and even other staff is invaluable.



Submitted by Emily Burke, Regional Director, Nutrition, Health and Wellness

At Unidine, the Regional Directors of Nutrition support the development of dietitians through clinical documentation evaluation and teaching clinical skills to improve quality of care to the patients served. Our competency training for dietitians centers around performing the NFPE, documenting malnutrition criteria and obtaining a diagnosis of malnutrition so dietitians are prepared, knowledgeable and able to make informed interventions to improve patient outcomes.