Nurse Types / Nutrition Nurse
Nutrition nurses provide a unique perspective to patient care. They can have many different roles and work in many different healthcare facilities.
This article will provide you with resources to learn more about nutrition nursing and how to break into this specialty.
- What is a nutrition nurse?
- What do nutrition nurses do?
- Where do nutrition nurses work?
- What are closely related fields to a nutrition nurse?
- How to become a nutrition nurse in 3 steps
- What are additional requirements of nutrition nurses?
- What are the salary and career outlooks for nutrition nurses?
- Next steps
What is a nutrition nurse?
A nutrition nurse specializes in nutrition support and education to help patients with a variety of medical conditions and chronic diseases. Nutrition nurses work with all types of patients and can work in many different healthcare facilities.
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Qualities of a successful nutrition nurse
Nutrition nurses provide specialized care and must have a variety of skills to be successful advocates for their patients.
Nutrition nurses must have:
- Good communication skills
- Time management skills
- Organizational skills
- Patience and compassion
- Positive attitude
What do nutrition nurses do?
Nutrition nurses can have many different roles and responsibilities depending on where they work.
Responsibilities can include:
- Developing nutrition education programs
- Developing individualized meal plans and nutrition goals
- Assisting patients in losing weight
- Treating chronic diseases with nutrition education and diet changes
- Managing enteral and parenteral nutrition
A day in the life of a nutrition nurse
A nutrition nurse’s schedule is dependent on the type of healthcare facility. An outpatient setting may require shorter weekday shifts while a hospital setting may require longer shifts and weekend requirements. Nutrition nurses typically do not have to work overnight shifts.
Your responsibilities as a nutrition nurse will also vary depending on the type of healthcare facility. Hospital nutrition nurses focus on treating acute problems and preparing patients for discharge. Clinic or school nutrition nurses focus on education and health promotion.
Common conditions treated by nutrition nurses
There are many different conditions that can be treated by nutrition nurses. Both acute and chronic diseases can benefit from nutrition education.
Common conditions treated by nutrition nurses include:
- Celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Food allergies and intolerances
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Irritable bowel disease
- Short gut syndrome
- Cardiac diseases
Where do nutrition nurses work?
Because your responsibilities as a nutrition nurse can vary depending on the type of facility, it is important to consider where you want to work when applying for nutrition nurse positions.
Schools allow nutrition nurses to focus on nutrition education, promoting a healthy lifestyle, collaborating with teachers, administration, and parents, and providing resources for students.
Clinics and wellness centers are also focused on education and health promotion. These facilities often allow nutrition nurses to build a strong relationship with patients and provide one-on-one coaching.
Long-term care and rehabilitation facilities are focused on monitoring caloric and nutrient intake for patients in order to improve their health, and monitoring for malnutrition.
Hospitals are focused on treating acute problems, monitoring enteral and parenteral nutrition, and nutrition education for new diagnoses.
What are closely related fields to a nutrition nurse?
A nutrition nurse is a part of a large network of different nutrition roles. There are many roles similar to a nutrition nurse, and not all are specific to nursing. Many of these roles do not require nursing degrees but have a comprehensive education in nutrition.
Closely related roles include:
- Diabetes nurse educator
- Personal trainer
- Health coach
- Nutrition writer
How to become a nutrition nurse in 3 steps
Step 1 – Become a registered nurse
There are many pathways to become a registered nurse. The first step is to earn a BSN degree.
Earn a BSN degree (BSN, RN to BSN, or ABSN)
There are many different types of programs that offer BSN degrees. The type of program you choose will depend on your previous education experience and what type of program fits your lifestyle best.
Incredible Health has many great resources to help you choose the right BSN program for you.
Pass the NCLEX exam
The NCLEX exam is required to practice as a registered nurse in all states. Once you pass the NCLEX, you will be allowed to practice as a registered nurse and can begin gaining valuable experience.
Step 2 – Gain nursing work experience
Accumulating experience is essential to become a well-rounded nurse. Most direct patient care positions would be a great way to begin to gain experience to become a nutrition nurse.
Helpful skills and experience
Any experience with direct patient care will be helpful as a nutrition nurse.
Look for positions that have opportunities for skills such as:
- Patient education opportunities
- Opportunities to collaborate with other healthcare providers
- Experience with a variety of diseases and healthcare plans
Direct patient care roles will give you opportunities to develop your time management and organizational skills, as well as opportunities to collaborate with other healthcare providers and interact with patients.
Changing speciality to a nutrition nurse
When you are working in direct patient care roles, look for any opportunity to shadow a nutrition nurse. Communicate with the nutrition nurses in your unit and ask them about the requirements and responsibilities of their role. This is a great way to make connections that could lead to future job opportunities.
Step 3 – Obtain certifications
Certification requirements as a nutrition nurse will depend on the state and type of healthcare facility you work in. Certified nutrition nurses may find more job opportunities, promotions, and increased salary opportunities.
The National Board of Nutrition Support Certification (NBNSC) and the American Association of Nutritional Consultants (AANC) have certifications available. Both certifications recommend at least two years of experience before applying.
The NBNSC certification is a 5 year certification. You must have a RN license prior to testing and the cost to test is $430. If you do not pass the certification test, you may retake at any time during the next application period. Study resources can be found on the NBNSC website.
The AANC certification is a series of tests based on specific textbooks dictated by the AANC. You must be an AANC member and have a high school diploma or GED to test and the cost is $400. There is also a membership fee and textbook exam cost to account for when considering this certification. After applying, you have one year to complete all of the exams which are based on a variety of nutrition topics. Study resources can be found on the AANC website.
What are additional requirements of nutrition nurses?
Nutrition nurses must keep up with ongoing education related to current nutrition recommendations and guidelines. Specific ongoing education requirements will depend on your state and facility.
Nutrition nurses must be very compassionate and patient. Nutrition therapy is a long process and patients can get discouraged when they do not see quick results. It is important for nutrition nurses to maintain a positive outlook and encourage patients throughout their treatment.
What are the salary and career outlooks for nutrition nurses?
The need for nutrition nurses is strong. Because nutrition nurses can work in a variety of areas, there is a wide range of opportunities for this speciality.
According to ziprecruiter.com, the average salary for a nutrition nurse is $72,181 ($34.70/hr) – with a range of $42,000-125,000. The average salary for a nutrition nurse in the United States is $72,181. This pay scale can vary based on skill level, location, and years of experience.
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Job satisfaction for nutrition nurses is generally high. One study found that job satisfaction was lower in nutrition roles that worked in a hospital setting and salary played an important role in job satisfaction.
Certificates can help you stand out as a candidate, but they are not needed to practice as a nutrition nurse. However, you will need to be a licensed RN.
This answer will vary from person to person. Becoming a RN takes about 4 years, and employers typically look for at least 1 year of bedside nursing experience for most specialties.
According to ziprecruiter.com, the average salary for a nutrition nurse is $72,181 ($34.70/hr) – with a range of $42,000-125,000.
If you are interested in becoming a nutrition nurse, looking at the NBNSC or AANC certifications is a great place to start. Another option is to move to a different type of healthcare facility to gain a more diverse nursing experience.
Nutrition nurses looking to advance their career might consider leadership positions or advanced practice nursing. Some nutrition nurses start their own businesses providing nutrition planning and coaching.
Nutrition nursing is a vital specialty and provides many opportunities for nurses looking to break into this field.
- “Job Satisfaction in Nutrition and Dietetics Profession”. scholarsrepository.llu.edu. Accessed August 10, 2022.
- “AANC Certification”. aanc.net. Accessed August 10, 2022.
- “NBNSC Certification”. nutritioncare.org. Accessed August 10, 2022.
- “Common Nutrition Therapy Conditions”. standfordhealth.org. Accessed August 10, 2022.
- “Nurse Nutritionist Salary”. ziprecruiter.com. Accessed August 10, 2022.