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A nurse specializing in nutrition and diet can majorly impact a patients’ health, well-being, and longevity. Sometimes known as a nutrition nurse or nurse nutritionist, this nursing professional can use their knowledge, training, and expertise to help patients manage dangerous diseases. Nutrition nurses can help mitigate preventable deaths. The CDC reports that diabetes caused 102,188 deaths in the U.S. in 2020, and is the 8th leading cause of death nationwide.
Heart disease, the leading cause of death nationwide, killed 696,962 Americans in 2020. A highly trained nutrition nurse working closely with motivated patients could lead to a reduction in these numbers.
For a nurse with a keen interest in nutritional health, this career path can be highly rewarding.
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What Does a Nutrition Nurse Do?
Nurse nutritionists or nutrition nurses work closely with patients to design nutrition plans. These plans make changes in diet based on patients’ health conditions. The nutrition nurse may also educate family members, building their confidence in improving a patient’s health.
A nurse who becomes a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES), formerly known as a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), can work with diabetic patients of all ages.
The American Association of Nutritional Consultants (AANC) also offers a Certified Nutritional Consultant program for all members of its organization. Both certifications require licensure as a registered nurse (RN).
Nutrition nurses may use supplements, tube feedings, or intravenous feedings as dietary interventions.
Conditions addressed by a nurse nutritionist may include diabetes, celiac disease, thyroid disorders, kidney disease, heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline, and HIV/AIDS.
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- Patient assessment
- Patient and family education
- Multidisciplinary collaboration
- Dietary/nutritional planning
- Requires patient advocacy and education
- Not physically demanding
- Involves collaboration
- Happens in a variety of clinical settings, both inpatient and ambulatory
Where Do Nutrition Nurses Work?
Nutrition nurses can work in many settings, including specialty clinics and practices treating diabetes, heart disease, renal disease, HIV/AIDS, celiac, thyroid disorders, and cancer.
Long-term care, assisted living, memory units, and nursing homes may also employ nurse nutritionists. Federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) that primarily serve socioeconomically challenged populations may also be a viable workplace for a nutrition nurse.
The nutrition nurse will work with patients on disease-specific nutritional recommendations for each individual patient's diabetic condition.
The nutrition nurse may serve patients living with a wide spectrum of illnesses, including all of those listed above.
The nutrition nurse may work in collaboration with the dietary department and kitchen in relation to meal planning for the larger facility and for patients in need of specific dietary support.
How to Become a Nutrition Nurse
To become a nutrition nurse, a nurse must earn the minimum of an ADN and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to attain an RN license. The nurse may also earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or be a licensed advanced practice nurse practitioner (APRN).
Roles as a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) or Certified Nutritional Consultant both require an ADN. CDCES eligibility includes two years of professional practice in an associated discipline, and at least 1,000 hours providing diabetes care and education. A nurse with a keen interest and knowledge of nutrition could, in theory, find a position while uncertified. Pursuing certification benefits professional credibility and provides expertise.
How Much Do Nutrition Nurses Make?
In terms of earning potential, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and other sites do not provide specific salary data for nutrition nurses. However, the BLS projects 9% job growth for RNs overall between 2020 and 2030, and 11% job growth for dietitians and nutritionists.July 2022 Payscale data reports an average hourly wage ranging from $25- $44, with a median hourly wage of $31.26. Annually, RNs earn between $51k and $92k.
Years of experience, certification, and specialized knowledge can all increase earning potential.
Frequently Asked Questions about Nutrition Nurses
How long does it take to become a nutrition nurse?
Becoming a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) requires first gaining two years of professional practice in an associated discipline, and at least 1,000 hours providing diabetes care and education.
What's the difference between a nutrition nurse and a dietition?
According to the BLS, dietitians and nutritionists need a bachelor’s degree and some form of supervised training or internship. In certain states, they are also required to hold a license.A nutrition nurse may have an ADN, does not necessarily need to have completed a formal internship, but does need at least 1,000 hour of providing patients with diabetes care and education.
Can nutrition nurses prescribe medicine?
Only a nutrition nurse who is a nurse practitioner can prescribe medicine.
What does a nutrition nurse do?
A nutrition nurse or nurse nutritionist collaborates with patients and their families in designing meal plans and nutritional/dietary goals, and provides appropriate education for disease and lifestyle management.
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