Susan Hughes, from the Health, Learning and Skills Advice line, on the unique career paths available to nurses with a passion for nutrition
Here at the helpline, we’ve held a number of discussions with nurses who have asked the question: “How do I convert my interest in nutrition into a viable career option within the nursing profession?”
The answer is that there’s a variety of opportunities for nurses to practice within the field of nutrition in both acute and primary care. With careful thought, research and planning, you could be providing specialist nutrition support and making a significant difference to the lives of patients.
Here are some examples of the job roles available:
- Nutrition Nurse Advisor
- Paediatric Nurse Advisor (Nutrition)
- Clinical Nurse Nutrition Specialist
- Nurse Nutrition Practitioner
- Nurse Consultant – Clinical Nutrition
- Senior Clinical Nurse Specialist.
Nursing in nutrition
To work as a nurse in nutrition, you’ll need to be an enthusiastic, self motivated person with excellent time management, communication and interpersonal skills. You would be expected to work autonomously but also as part of the nutrition team in multidisciplinary settings. You could be supervising patients in nutrition clinics and communicating any changes in care to the patient, carers and other healthcare professionals.
As well as being a registered nurse with several years experience, you’ll be expected to have both a qualification and experience in teaching and assessing in clinical practice. Evidence of study in nutrition support to at least degree level may also be required, as could a nurse prescribing qualification. Some employers may prefer you to be a member of the National Nurses Nutrition Group.
Specialising in nutrition
Many nurses specialise in nutrition work within gastroenterology or oncology departments, or in primary care. As a Clinical Nurse Nutrition Specialist for example, you would be responsible for providing expert advice, guidance, training and counselling to patients requiring nutrition support. You will need to work with their carers, relatives and other healthcare professionals, either in the hospital or community setting, or both. You would also be expected to act as an informed resource, role model, and clinical expert in the field of nutrition support.
Salaries for Clinical Nutrition Nurse Specialists usually start at payband 6, rising in line with increased seniority and responsibility. Nurse Consultant positions are usually offered at payband 8(a-c).
Training in nutrition
To find out about training, contact universities to enquire about relevant continuing professional development (CPD) programmes. These could be in the form of full higher education awards, credit-bearing modules or short courses.
Secondments can offer an excellent means of gaining vital experience, and the opportunity to find out more about what’s involved. Speak with your line manager about secondment opportunities. Also, contact your hospital or community-based nutrition teams for an insight into the services they offer.
Run by the Careers Advice Service and sponsored by NHS Careers and Skills for Health, the Health Learning and Skills Advice Line provides careers information, advice and guidance to support people working in healthcare. The friendly, trained career coaches can also give you constructive feedback on your CV and help assess your skills.
For a free, confidential discussion about your career, call freephone 08000 150 850 from 8am to 10pm, seven days a week.