Dietetic technicians work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, public health agencies, weight-management clinics, correctional facilities, and food companies. They serve in two basic areas: as service personnel in food-service administration and as assistants in clinical nutrition, which is the nutritional care of individuals.
Some dietetic technicians are involved in both kinds of activities, while others concentrate on just one area. Specific duties and responsibilities vary widely, depending on where technicians work and the area in which they specialize.
In food-service administration, dietetic technicians often supervise other food-service employees and oversee the food-production operation on a day-to-day basis. They may act as administrative assistants to dietitians, helping implement cost-control measures, developing job specifications and job descriptions, and monitoring the quality of the food and service provided. They may also be responsible for planning menus.
In a medical center, where the food-service staff prepares thousands of meals daily for patients and personnel, there may be a team of dietetic technicians, as well as dietetic aides, assistants, and other food-service workers, all working under the direction of dietitians. In such cases, each dietetic technician may specialize in just one or two activities.
On the other hand, in a small organization such as some nursing, Head Start, or geriatric care programs, there may be just one dietetic technician responsible for the overall management of the food-service staff and also for some nutrition counseling. The technician in a small facility may be supervised only by a consultant dietitian and may report directly to the administrator or director of the institution.
Dietetic technicians working in food-service administration plan and prepare schedules and activities, perhaps spending a substantial part of their time on the phone or doing paperwork. They delegate work and plan schedules for other employees, and they train new staff members in food-production methods and the use of kitchen equipment. Later, they follow up by helping prepare evaluations of the food program and assessments of the efficiency of employees or particular production processes.
They also help to develop recipes, adapting standard versions to the particular needs and circumstances of their institution. They write modified diet plans for patients, and they sometimes help patients select their menus. They keep track of food items on hand, process routine orders to the suppliers, order miscellaneous supplies as needed, and supervise food storage. They are involved with departmental budget-control measures and may participate in dietary department conferences.
At other times, dietetic technicians work more directly in the kitchen, overseeing and coordinating actual food-production activities, including the preparation of special therapeutic food items. They may even participate in the preparation of meals, although they usually just monitor the preparations. They supervise dietetic aides, who distribute food in the cafeteria and serve meals to patients in their rooms.
Depending on their employers, some dietetic technicians are also responsible for meeting standards in sanitation, housekeeping, safety in equipment operation, and security procedures.
Dietetic technicians who specialize in nutrition care and counseling work under the direction of a clinical or community dietitian. They often work in a health care facility, where they observe and interview patients about their eating habits and food preferences. Dietetic technicians then report diet histories to the dietitians, along with the patients’ progress reports. The information is used to outline any changes needed in basic diet plans and menus. They also supervise the serving of food to ensure that meals are nutritionally adequate and conform to the physicians’ prescriptions.
Technicians teach the basic principles of sound nutrition, food selection and preparation, and good eating habits to patients and their families so that after leaving the health care facility the patients may continue to benefit. Later, the technicians contact those patients to see how well they are staying on the modified diets and to help them make any further adjustments in accordance with their preferences, habits at home, and the physicians’ prescriptions.
Tags:the Job of the Dietetic Technician - Improving the Diet of the Sick and Elderly