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How to… combine a career in nursing with an interest in nutrition

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.

Readers' comments (7)

  • It is so good to see this post. I am thinking to be involved in nursing. But i think you should mention some more facts here like salary and others information about nursing.
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  • why is there a need for these roles when there are dietitians? Is this not just another costly layer of nursing adding further role confusion where patient care is being missed out and when it is bedside nurses who are needed to actually feed the patients?

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  • I was a nurse 30 years ago and let my registration lapse. I decided 5 years ago to do a BSc.(Hons)Nutrition as I had a friend who was told by her oncologist to carry on doing what she was doing. Not once did that person ask my friend what she was eating, how she felt about food, what lifestyle did she have nor asked about the stress she was under. I have lived and worked in England for 13yrs in the hospital as a phlebotomist, in the GP surgery as a phlebotomist and in the community caring for people in their homes and in residential home settings. I am appalled by what I have seen. The Nutritionists role is to guide people in practical easy ways to help themselves or for the carers to help these people. The dietician visits schools, works within the pct and is spread very thin as there only seems to be 1/2 around. I have supported people nutritionally on their discharge, instead of allowing the calcichews to build up next to the person even after they have been prompted, gotten then a half a glass of cool milk-which they loved, simple effective aspects like this makes a HUGE difference but even now Nutritionists with degrees are not acknowledged by the NHS or PCT. The government pay for your course, you do it because you want to make a difference in someones life and have the knowledge but the very spouting worded governments don't really mean what they say. So I am through the NSF creating and using competencies to make my own role in the community. I am not interested in pegs or nasogastric or enteral feeds. I want to work with people who need guidence to protect and contribute preventing re-occurance of illness. I'm a 1st year student, yep I have gone back into training on the degree course for adult nursing and will be a registered and recognised nutrition nurse to fill those gaps needed for support.

    So most definitely nutrition nurses are needed.

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  • Oh yes forgot I actually had a doctor hold his hand up to me and asked me not to talk nurtition to his patiens, his diabetic, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, chd patiens. Yet the practice nurse was coming to me to ask me what should she advise. Oh yes in the community a patient had 7 days of calci chews, which happened every week left on the side of her tray, she didn't like them, this had gone on for sometime. The agency I worked for told me to keep out of it it was not my responsibility, so I wrote to the community team. The letter I had back was extremely rude, telling me I had no idea what I was talking about, that all elderly in care have to be on supplements regardless and I should not have offered the patient a glass of milk because I could overdose her calcium intake. WHAT she wasn't getting any calcium so how could it contribute to an overdose. Yes I want to be out there helping with REAL FOOD SOURCES and not supplementing supplements-more money for the drug companies!! I love it when doctors prescribe multi-vitamins for people especially vitamin B, people take their supps. at night, can't sleep because the vitamin B keeps them awake so the next visit to the doctor is for sleeping pills but the doctor neglects to let them know when to take their supplesments, no vit. B at night its an energy vitamin - nice money market game- supplements and medicines.

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  • Karryne, why did you get the patient milk when three is significant evidence that it causes osteoporosis.?

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  • can a nurse run a nutrition centre at her own and what is the qualification?

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  • Anon 6.18
    ..and it causes stomach ulcers

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