Will Devlin

What inspired you to become a dietitian?

For the longest time I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career. I always knew that I wanted to have a career that allowed me to help people and make a difference in people’s lives. I just was not exactly sure what career that would be.

Like most uncertain college students, I took an introduction to nutrition course and was immediately hooked. Our college professor showed us documentaries like The Weight of the Nation and Super-Size Me. I recognized right away how big of an issue nutrition was for our country and knew that I wanted to aid in rectifying this growing problem.

Could you tell me about your educational background and the path you took to become a dietitian?

I completed my undergraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics at Florida State University. I would later complete my master’s degree in nutrition at the University of North Florida. Prior to completing my dietetic internship with Morrison Healthcare, I worked full-time as a nutrition educator for WIC at the Putnam County Health Department while simultaneously being a full-time graduate student.

After graduating, I later began my dietetic internship with Morrison Healthcare where I chose to specialize in clinical nutrition. This declaration of focus allowed me to spend more of my required 1200 hours of supervised practice in the clinical facet. Upon completion of my dietetic internship, I had to wait for testing centers to reopen due to COVID before I could secure a testing slot and take my RD exam.

What does a typical day or week look like for you as a dietitian?

I currently work as a renal dietitian for Fresenius Medical Care, a global dialysis company. The beauty of working in the clinical outpatient facet is that I get to work with the same patients long-term. I have a monthly cycle that I complete with my patients, therefore a week to week can vary. I do really enjoy the variety! I pass out and review monthly lab draws and discuss with patients what dietary changes could be made to help improve our labs. I also have focus topics to cover weekly. Common topics consist of albumin, fluids/sodium goals, types of accesses for dialysis, possibility of a kidney transplant, and types of phosphorus.

After working in the hospital with the average length of stay being approximately 4 days, I enjoy working in the clinical outpatient facet where I can get to know my patients and provide for them on a deeper level.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of being a dietitian?

The most challenging aspect for me as a dietitian has been the general lack of understanding pertaining to our profession i.e., what a dietitian is, what it is we do, and how best to utilize dietitians. Numerous patients in the hospital would automatically assume I worked in the kitchen and would deny nutrition education and instead ask for more ketchup or mayo packets. There were times when medical staff would simply refer to our staff of dietitians as “dietary” personnel.

Always take the time to stop and educate these individuals. Most of the time when this was done the individuals were receptive!

The most rewarding aspect for me has definitely been getting to see the patients improve. This is represented in a variety of ways i.e., increase in knowledge, improved labs, increase in energy and quality of life, successfully losing weight, being able to receive a kidney transplant, and being declared with resolved kidney function and getting off dialysis.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in dietetics?

Research programs and internships to find the best fit for you and what facet(s) you are leaning towards working in. The number of fully remote programs are growing. Which would allow students to also work simultaneously and gain experience. Some internships allow you to declare a focus area so that interns can gain additional experience in their preferred facet. Some jobs also help pay for school and dietetic internships. When I worked at WIC through the health department, I took advantage of the student tuition waiver program. With this program employees could go to school for free.

What do you see as the future of the dietetics profession?

With the impending requirement starting in 2024, all dietitians moving forward must have a master’s degree. I foresee future practitioners being more educated and utilizing more technological applications than ever before. Using live video feeds and photos to conduct 24-hour dietary recalls and help in establishing a patient’s PO intake. Using apps more frequently to aid in achieving nutrition goals i.e., weight loss, weight gain, tracking fluids. These applications will help tremendously for patients who are poor historians.

With our country’s aging population, I think we can expect there to be a shift and an increase in demand for coverage in the clinical and long-term care facets.

However, as technology continues to advance our fight against social media influencers, self-proclaimed nutrition experts, celebrity nutrition fads, and fad diets are only just beginning. Considering this, practitioners will need to work as a united community more than ever to help educate the lay public on how to distinguish who is a nutrition expert.

What are some personality traits and characteristics it takes to be in your specific role?

I believe in order to be a successful renal dietitian, one would need to be patient, kind, and a good communicator. Sometimes patients crash and burn into dialysis because they were given the options of either dialysis or hospice. So as a result, they may feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and distraught. Any aspiring practitioner that is able to forge new relationships and build on preexisting ones will without question be an absolute rockstar as a renal dietitian. The core of the nutrition care process forever and always will be the relationship between the practitioner and patient. “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”