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Nutrition Aide Duties and Responsibilities
The role of a nutrition aide is broad, and the responsibilities they assume vary from place to place. However, there are certain tasks the majority of nutrition aides are responsible for on a daily basis. Most nutrition aides are expected to:
Help Identify Clients' Nutritional Needs Nutrition aides often help nutritionists and other healthcare professionals identify and assess the nutritional needs of clients. They may help patients craft menus appropriate for their specific dietary needs. When assessing the nutritional needs of patients, they must take their medical conditions and general health into consideration.
Serve Food Nutrition aides employed in hospitals or nursing homes may be directly responsible for serving food to patients. They must ensure the food is prepared in a healthy manner that takes the dietary needs of their patients into consideration. Some aides may even assist in the direct preparation of certain foods.
Document Patient Progress Nutritionists monitor the progress of their patients over time. Since many are busy with other tasks, nutrition aides are often expected to record patient data. They may interview patients in person, over the phone, or through questionnaires.
Evaluate the Effectiveness of Meal Plans Some patients may need to try multiple meal plans and diets before they see results. This is normal, and nutrition aides are often tasked with helping patients understand which plan or diet will work the best for them.
Perform Administrative Tasks Nutritionists often have several clients, and a significant amount of their time may be spent helping them. Their aides may be responsible for answering phones, filing important documents, sending emails, and verifying insurance benefits.
Nutrition Aide Skills and QualificationsThe skills and qualifications required to become a nutrition aide vary from employer to employer and depend on factors such as educational level and years of experience. A degree is generally not required to work as a nutrition aide, but most aides have at least a high school diploma or GED. Nutrition aides with the following qualifications are more likely to be hired:
- Basic knowledge of nutrition - nutrition aides do not need extensive knowledge of nutrition, but they should know the basics. They must be capable of interpreting instructions written by nutritionists and medical professionals without assistance
- Food service experience - nutrition aides work directly with food on a regular basis, and they are responsible for ensuring patients receive the food they need to recover from illnesses and injuries. For this reason, employers are more likely to hire aides with food service backgrounds
- Food safety knowledge - countless individuals are harmed by food-borne illnesses on a daily basis. Many of these illnesses are caused by improper storage, cross-contamination, and improper cooking. Nutrition aides should know how to prevent such illnesses from occurring
- Communication skills - nutrition aides work directly with patients and report to nutritionists and other medical professionals. They need to be compassionate and understanding of patient/client needs. They should also know how to convey their feelings and ideas in a mature and professional fashion
- Organization skills - nutrition aides may be responsible for serving and assisting multiple patients. They should be capable of keeping track of patient records and the food they consume regularly
Nutrition Aide Education and TrainingNutrition aides typically do not need a college degree, but many possess an associate's degree in a health science field. Employers expect nutrition aides to have at least a high school diploma or GED, and in some cases this may not be a requirement. Food service experience is highly prized among employers, and preference is usually given to candidates with restaurant experience. The on-the-job training a nutrition aide receives may last for several weeks until the aide feels comfortable working unsupervised.
Nutrition Aide Salary and OutlookThe Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies nutrition aides as health and personal care aides, and it lists the median annual salary of a nutrition aide as $23,100. Nutrition aides in the top 10 percent earn more than $30,750 annually, while those in the lowest 10 percent earn less than $18,160 each year. Nutrition aides employed full time by reputable companies usually receive additional benefits such as health insurance, sick days, retirement, and paid time off. The employment rate of nutrition aides is estimated to increase 41 percent through 2026. This is a remarkably high rate when compared with the national average of 7 percent for all professions. This abnormally high growth rate is attributed to the country's large aging population and the vast expansion of the healthcare field.
Ready to become a nutrition aide? The career resources below can show you how to make your professional dreams come true:
American Nutrition Association - established in 1972, the ANA strives to educate the general public about the importance of healthy eating and exercise. Its website offers links to job boards and information about community events. Membership is open to anyone who works in the nutrition field, as well as individuals and organizations with a strong interest in nutrition
Nutrition Facts: The Truth About Food - ideal for both entry-level nutrition aides and career veterans, this highly esteemed book explores the world of food and nutrition. Written by Karen Frazier, Nutrition Facts discusses topics such as the link between health and nutrition, how to cure common ailments with food, and the truth about additives and preservatives. This book is simply a must-have for anyone in the nutrition industry
Understanding Nutrition - one of the most highly rated nutrition textbooks on the market, Eleanor Noss Whitney and Sharon Rolfes' Understanding Nutrition has earned a significant amount of praise from nutrition students and publishers alike. The book simplifies complex topics and offers a host of real-world examples and useful practice questions
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