My clients often ask this question and I calmly explain without hesitation.
For several years I have signed my letters and emails with “From Your RD” so, it somehow stuck in my head to name my company just that, “From Your RD”. I thought it was brilliant! I ordered business cards, my daughter inspired my logo and my husband polished it off, I purchased website rights, muddled my way through getting that started (From Your RD, LLC), I began blogging, started a Facebook page and I even decided to contract with a company, Independence Golf (here) to teach nutrition and cooking classes. I was on a roll and very excited about what I called my “soft launch” of my new business adventure.
When a few more people asked the question, I continued to explain my credentials.
I was (let’s be honest) venting to my husband one evening as he cooked dinner and I sipped a glass of sweet wine about how naive I had been by expecting the public to know what RD meant. He knew, right? NO!! Are you kidding me?! I asked my 12-year-old child (one of the twins), she didn’t know either. I called my mother, she didn’t know. I asked a long-time client, I am talking over 5 years I have known this person and we meet just about every month in one of the support groups I organize, certainly she would know. NOPE!! HOLY SMOKES!!! What have I done?!? I named my company and NO ONE knows what in tarnation it means! I sunk low. I had my own personal pity party. I decided that I had two choices, rename my company something more obvious or shout from the roof-tops the definition of RD.
I am a bit a loud mouth, so I chose the latter.
RD = Registered Dietitian
A Registered Dietitian is the Nutrition Expert. The credentials are earned and here is the long and studious process:
First, you must obtain at least a 4-year bachelor’s degree in Nutrition Science, Human Biology, Dietetics, Human Nutrition or other very related field.
Second, you apply for an internship which is based on a matching system modeled from medical residency programs. In detail, you review the available programs (there are about 2,900 spots among the just over 300 programs offered in the US), pick 5 that you really want to go to, rank them 1 through 5 and complete an application for each internship (they all ask for different essays, referral letters and have their own forms). The programs receive your application along with about 5,400 other new dietetic grads from around the country and they rank you. When the two lists are electronically aligned, the top matches are let in and the others are left to apply in another 6-12 months. It is a nail biting experience. In 2015 the odds of even obtaining an internship spot was roughly 50%. (Today's Dietitian) I will admit in 2001-2002, my odds were much better hovering around 85% and my undergrad school boasted that it yielded 99% placement and almost the same number of RD passes at the time. I love my alma mater (SUNY Oneonta). But we are not done yet!
Third, you must move to where the internship is offered, pay to attend the internship, complete the full-time program, which can be anywhere from 1-3 years long.
Fourth, you sit for the dreaded and intense RD Exam. This is a little like doctors sitting for their boards. It is a very long and comprehensive exam. You must know all aspects of nutrition science to take and pass this exam. Nutrition Science includes human nutrition, metabolism and physiology, anatomy, nutrition policy, childhood nutrition, critical care, food service and industry, research, cooking techniques, food composition, management…it’s a long list. Here is an outline you are given from our regulating organization CDR to be sure you have all the bases covered.
When it is over the screen goes blank and then about 1 minute later the results appear on the screen with an anticlimactic monotype message of either “passed” or “not passed” and something along the lines of “please proceed to the exit”. Just writing this makes my heart race with anxiety. I can remember the moment so well. I honestly wanted balloons and confetti to fly into the air. I passed the first time – and I Thank God everyday – but you only have 2 chances to take this test. To reattempt after 2 fails, you must complete more course work. Once you have passed, you are now officially able to use the credentials “RD” after your name and from that moment forward your education and actions are tracked (not in a big brother way) by the previously mentioned regulating organization called the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). You must maintain your credentials by submitting an education plan and completing at least 75 hours (or CEUs) of continuing education every 5 years. This is to keep RDs current and stay on track with their chosen field of study within nutrition science for the duration of their career.
Check out this video describing the definition of RD.
RDs have run into this hiccup for what seems like forever. The CDR noticed that most people relate to the word Nutritionist far easier than Registered Dietitian. In fact, so much so that last year it was officially approved that we could opt to use a new credential “RDN” which stands for Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. I tried it for a short time but, I was working in a hospital at the time and when people saw RDN on my name badge, I was often confused for a nurse (RN).
The same thing happened once I obtained my Master’s degree. I studied for over 3 years while working full time, having our third baby and balancing my home life to add more credentials to my name and push my knowledge further. I completed my Masters in Nutrition and Wellness. I started using the credentials MSN. Again, too many people thought I had a Masters in Nursing so, I shortened it to MS.
Just to clear the air and be sure I explain all those “letters” after my name, I need to add CDE. I am also a Certified Diabetes Educator. This is a certification that involves completing at least 2 years of practice experience working as a health care professional (RD, RN, PA etc) and at least 1,000 hours working directly with people that have diabetes in an approved program or with a CDE mentor. I also had to sit for an exam after completing the hours and the application process. There are an additional 75 hours of continuing education I must complete for this credential as well.
I like the way Eatright.org describes the difference between a nutritionist and an RD: “Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, but only a registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) has completed multiple layers of education and training.”
Also from NCBDE
What is a Certified Diabetes Educator?
A Certified Diabetes Educator® (CDE®) is a health professional who possesses comprehensive knowledge of and experience in prediabetes, diabetes prevention, and management. The CDE® educates and supports people affected by diabetes to understand and manage the condition. A CDE® promotes self-management to achieve individualized behavioral and treatment goals that optimize health outcomes.
Now you know or at least have some idea about what it means to be an RD. An RD can be called a Nutritionist but not every Nutritionist is an RD. I will acknowledge there are many talented and knowledgeable Nutritionists. This is the professional path that I chose to take because it is evidence based, held to the highest of standards and from the beginning, allows you to explore all aspects of nutritional science.
I love what I get to do everyday, helping others navigate the business of nourishing their bodies' and continuing to learn about the ever expanding body of discoveries in the field of Nutrition. Now I say to you simply: Ask the RD
From Your RD,
Francine M. Kerber, MS, RD, CDE