Dietitian Career Spotlight: Clinical Dietitian Laura MacDonald

Do you ever find yourself asking - how do I know whether a certain career path is right for me OR what are the opportunities available to me as a Dietitian? Welcome to the "RD Spotlight" series, where we explore profiles on some incredible dietitians doing amazing work in diverse practice areas.

Where do you work? At a community hospital in Toronto

What was your path to get there? Originally I studied health sciences and psychology at Brescia University College/Western University until I decided what career in health care I wanted. It took me a while to decide, but what helped the most was "reverse interviewing" health professionals and asking them what their job was really like, including examples like the questions here! So after speaking with a couple RDs I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Luckily, I was able to transfer a lot of my credits into Nutrition and Dietetics. Once I took the remainder I needed and finished the degree, I was accepted into Brescia's Diploma program for the internship year and did many clinical placements in acute care. I never thought I would love working in a hospital as much as I did, but my internship is what made me decide to apply to clinical positions as an RD. 

What do you love about your job? I love the variety of health conditions you I can see working in general medicine, the independence of getting to organize your day as you see fit (based on priority of patients), I love the ability to be there for people and their families during a difficult time and giving them a small piece of control back through nutrition, I love being able to work in a hospital but still work 8-4, I really enjoy the way it pushes me to constantly be on top of recommendations and up-to-date with nutrition information to provide care to my patients. I also really enjoy working with such a large number of people, and I have really close friendships from my job as it's a really good community of staff. 

What’s the hardest thing about your job? Currently, working during a time of a pandemic is hard, but I feel like I'm showing up for my country and fulfilling a duty to help others. Having patients pass away, especially witnessing a code is particularly difficult. A challenge of the job is the short amount of time you get to work with patients so sometimes you don't get to see the long-term results of your interventions if they're quickly discharged. The last thing is that I find you don't fully feel "done". If you're used to project work or even just semesters in school, there is a beginning and end, before you start again. Where as in a hospital, you always have a census of new patients, existing patients that need follow up and patients you're prepping for discharge. Each day will have a fresh to do list for the next day without fully feeling wrapped up, but that's the nature of acute care. 

What’s one piece of advice for students who want to pursue a similar career? 

Take the time to ask interview professionals in different areas you’re interested in. Ask them these questions. There are many aspects to job that make a difference in your quality of life. I.e. How much you have to talk in a day, whether you’re working alone or in a team, the hours, the pay, the independence or the level of supervision, the level of creativity or job growth. Ask the dietitian’s these questions and don’t be afraid to try things out of your comfort zone, it can open doors you didn’t even know you wanted to walk through. 

Are you a student who wants more career and personal development content just like this? Make sure to join The Dietitian Project private student Facebook group!

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