Nurses are essential healthcare workers in direct contact with patients and are responsible for caring for their basic needs. But, nursing is not limited to administering medications, following physician instructions, and providing compassionate care to recovering patients.
One such area is that of a nutrition nurse. A nutrition nurse is a healthcare specialist with expertise in nutrition support. A nutrition nurse must acquire the necessary academic qualification and work experience to gain expertise in this specialty.
There are numerous opportunities for nutrition nurses as they can easily find employment in hospitals, schools, outpatient settings, wellness programs, and long-term care facilities.
Nurses passionate about health and nutrition can combine their passions into rewarding careers. Here’s how.
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1. Become an advanced practice registered nurse
Obtaining a master of science in nursing degree (MSN). An MSN is ideal for nursing professionals interested in providing proactive and evidence-based treatments to patients with eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.
The MSN program can prepare nurses to pursue nursing and nutrition together and acquire the specialized skills they need to cater to these patients and help them recover. If you already have a demanding work schedule, you can choose to obtain an online master of science in nursing.
2. Complete a nutrition certification program.
Choose an accredited nutrition certificate course and one that aligns with the niche you want to pursue, e.g., sports nutrition, child nutrition, or precision nutrition.
Several reputable nutrition certifications are offered by the International Sports Science Association’s Nutrition Certificate, the National Council on Strength and Fitness, Precision Nutrition, the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and FitnessMentors.
3. Specialize in eating disorders.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia affect 28.8 million Americans (9% of the population).
Conversely, obesity is at epidemic proportions in America, placing the healthcare industry under financial strain. To become an eating disorder nurse, you need an advanced degree like a master of science in nursing (MSN).
Most eating disorders stem from psychological problems. Patients with eating disorders need both nutritional and medical support to recover. An MSN degree with a concentration in mental health can position you to specialize as an eating disorder nurse.
4. Start your nursing practice.
Nurses with a more entrepreneurial mindset and who wish to play a more active role in their patients’ lives concerning proper nutrition and disease prevention can benefit from their practice.
For example, a nurse with an MSN degree would be in a better position to understand nutrition basics and educate patients on healthy food choices. This can play a significant role in preventing chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.
In a hospital, a nutrition nurse can assist patients in recovering from illness while focusing on their nutritional requirements. Still, with their practice, nurses could provide nutritional education and counseling to more patients.
This includes people with eating disorders, people who are overweight, and people who need help with nutrition to deal with their chronic conditions better. Having the necessary skill and knowledge about nutrition can enable a nurse to expand the services at their nursing practice by providing patients with meal plans and dietary strategies.
With their experience, nutrition nurses can also help patients reach their fitness goals. In most states, nurse practitioners can open their practice. The regulations around this vary from state to state, so check the requirements in your state.
The reality is that within a healthcare environment, nurses have to wear many hats. Their profession is not limited to one type of task. Nurses are not only required to care for patients actively but are also expected to play a role in facilitating preventive care and educating the patient.
Since a person’s diet can play a significant role in their overall physical and mental well-being, a nurse who understands nutrition can offer valuable input and advice to promote a patient’s well-being.
It is also important to realize that physicians often issue orders for a diet that goes well with specific treatments or medications within a hospital setting.
Nurses who carry out these orders must know about nutrition, as this can significantly impact patient recovery and outcomes. A nutrition nurse can also better review a patient’s treatment and list of medications and determine foods that would benefit the patient and those that should be avoided.
Specialized knowledge about nutrition can help a nurse play a more productive role and also help increase patient awareness, hasten patient recovery, and improve patient outcomes.
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Erin is the mother of identical twin girls and their slightly older brother. She is a domestic engineer, and previously had a career leading customer service teams for a major HVAC company. Cleaning without harsh chemicals, and cooking easy and usually healthy meals are part of Erin's daily life. She volunteers with youth leaders, and genuinely wants to help others win. Erin has a degree in Communications, with a focus on Broadcast Journalism.