The Job of a Long Term Care Dietitian

A Long Term Care Dietitian is the one field of dietetics where you are essentially left to your own devices from day 1.  It can be incredibly difficult, but with the right tools, resources, and connections, if you can stick it out past the first few months, it will be the most rewarding field of work.

I’ve compiled my list of what the job of a Long Term Care Dietitian looks like, and I hope this list serves you well!

a worker helping an elderly woman in what appears to be a nursing home.

Day 1 Recommendations

  • Meet the Team
    • Start your journey by introducing yourself to the team. These colleagues are crucial allies, from nurses to administrative staff, and understanding their roles will enhance collaboration and patient care. You want to develop a friendly and cordial relationship, because you will need help from everyone to get your job done.
  • Find Your Office
    • Locate your office space. It’s more than just a physical location; it’s where you’ll plan, research, and manage your daily tasks. Make it a comfortable and efficient workspace for yourself. Personalize it with pictures, wall art and more to make it your rest place during a crazy day.
  • Find the Nursing Desks
    • Identifying the nursing desks is key. This is where a lot of the day-to-day information about patient care is communicated, making it an essential spot for regular visits and updates. Trust me, you will spend almost all day here.
  • Familiarize Yourself with Patient Charts
    • Take time to understand the patient charts. These documents are vital for assessing each patient’s nutritional needs and medical history, forming the backbone of your dietary planning. You need to browse through charts to find out where the different sections are, and where your assessments go.
  • Find Office Tools Like Photocopier and Printers
    • Locate essential office tools such as the photocopier, extra pens, and printers. Familiarity with these resources will come in handy when you realize you need extra pens in the middle of the day. Find out the process if you need to request additional workplace stuff.
  • Find Out Your Passwords
    • Ensure you have all necessary passwords for computer systems, software, and databases. These tools are essential for accessing patient information, dietary programs, and other resources. Write them down because chances are you’ll forget them with all the new information you’re trying to remember.
  • Understand Your Job Responsibilities from Management
    • Clarify your job responsibilities with management. Understanding your role, expectations, and how you fit into the larger care team is crucial to avoid any miscommunications in what you are expected to do daily.

Long Term Care Dietitian Job Responsibilities

The job responsibilities of long term care Dietitians will vary by facility as well as the number of Dietitians that are working there.  Here is a general list of the top 20 job responsibilities you may encounter.

  • Assessing nutritional needs of residents.
  • Developing individualized meal plans.
  • Monitoring resident food and fluid intake.
  • Conducting quarterly and annual nutrition assessments.
  • Collaborating with healthcare teams on care plans.
  • Educating residents on nutrition and healthy eating.
  • Managing dietary restrictions, preferences and allergies.
  • Ensuring compliance with dietary guidelines and regulations.
  • Coordinating with kitchen staff for meal preparations.
  • Reviewing and updating patient nutrition care plans.
  • Documenting and maintaining accurate patient records.
  • Participating in care plan meetings.
  • Providing nutrition counseling to residents and families.
  • Overseeing food service operations for quality and safety.
  • Developing and implementing nutrition programs and policies.
  • Training and supervising dietary staff.
  • Evaluating and selecting nutritional supplements.
  • Addressing and resolving dietary-related complaints.
  • Keeping up-to-date with the latest nutrition research and trends.
  • Participating in professional development and continuing education.

Something that I hear frequently from Dietitians is that the workload is far too much and they don’t have enough time in the day.  My suggestions are to either ask for hours to work, or to delegate certain responsibilities to kitchen supervisors.

Long Term Care Dietitian Resources

While most nutrition resources are developed for the outpatient and acute care dietetics field, the Long Term Care RD website has developed multiple resources.

You can select the resources tab and find free information, as well as the shop page in order to find eBooks and educational events developed for Long Term Care Dietitians.

If you’re also looking for a Long Term Care Dietitian support group, we host a monthly Zoom call!  This includes an educational seminar, followed by a group Q&A!  To join simply follow the contact information on the contact page to ask!

Quality of Life Importance

In the realm of long-term care, as dietitians, quality of life needs to be at the forefront of nutrition-related decisions. It’s not just about meeting dietary requirements; it’s about enhancing the daily experiences of the residents through food. 

Thoughtful choices in meal planning can significantly impact a resident’s enjoyment and satisfaction, influencing their overall health and well-being. By considering personal preferences, cultural backgrounds, and individual food histories, Dietitians can play a key role in not just nourishing bodies but also in uplifting spirits and preserving a sense of normalcy and pleasure in their lives.

Anytime a nutrition decision needs to be made the resident and their loved ones always gets the final say.  The Dietitian’s job is to educate them on the risks and benefits, but they get the ultimate decision.  

Benefits of Being a Long Term Care Dietitian

Despite what anyone may say about long term care, it is the most rewarding area of dietetics that I have ever worked in.  Initially in my career I never set out to work in long term care, but after 9+ years, I’m still here.

Here are my top 5 reasons benefits Dietitians will experience if they work in long term care.

  • Making a Real Impact: You have the opportunity to positively affect the lives of residents, improving their health and well-being through tailored nutrition plans.
  • Diverse Work Environment: Each day brings new challenges and opportunities to learn, from addressing unique dietary needs to collaborating with healthcare professionals.
  • Building Relationships: You get to form meaningful connections with residents and their families, providing not just nutritional guidance but also emotional support.
  • Professional Growth: The field offers continuous learning, keeping you abreast of the latest nutritional research and practices.
  • Job Satisfaction: There’s a deep sense of fulfillment in knowing that your expertise contributes significantly to the quality of life of the elderly and those in need of long-term care.

Long Term Care Dietitian Salary

A long term care Dietitian’s salary varies based on years of experience, location, contract or salary, in-house, among other factors.

On the low end I’ve seen some jobs listed at $23/hour (don’t ever accept a job that pays this low).  On the high end I have had some Dietitian friends get paid as high as $40-$50 an hour.  The high end jobs like that though are typically in isolated communities, the RD has to travel hours to get there, and they are contracted.

The average for a long term care Dietitian is about $28/hour1 according to salary.com. Though in my experience it’s closer to $30-$35 per hour to start.

I think it’s important that Dietitian’s push for higher salaries.  You have to go into a job opportunity understanding how much you have to offer.  $28/hour is very low. If you have a few years of experience, whether or not it is in long term care or not, you should be asking for a minimum $33/hour.  

Dietitian skills are transferable.  You will definitely get a higher wage if you have long term care experience.  But just because you’re an RD coming from hospital doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing.  Your clinical skills are likely quite strong, and you can pick up the rest quickly.

My Recommendations

It’s clear that being a long term care Dietitian is as rewarding as it is challenging. Balancing the extensive job responsibilities and time demands can be tough, but the satisfaction of making a significant difference in people’s lives is unparalleled. 

My advice? Don’t go at it alone. Connect with fellow dietitians in the field, share ideas, and build a supportive network. This camaraderie can combat isolation and enrich your practice. And remember, it’s okay to ask for help. Whether it’s seeking advice or sharing the workload, collaboration is key to thriving in this fulfilling, yet demanding, profession.

You can also always reach out to me, I’m happy to help Dietitians working in this area feel less alone.  That is after all, why I started this website and built this community.

Michelle saari dietitian
 | Website

Michelle Saari is a Registered Dietitian based in Canada. She has a Master's Degree in Human Nutritional Sciences and is a passionate advocate for spreading easy to understand, reliable, and trustworthy nutrition information. She is currently a full time online entrepreneur with two nutrition focused websites.

2 thoughts on “The Job of a Long Term Care Dietitian”

  1. i am interested in recipes and guidelines. my husband is 98 and needs to gain weight. eats poorly. I already started giving him ensure complete.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *