Some of the biggest questions I had when I was a student were- how do I know if a certain career path is right for me? AND how do I know what opportunities are available to dietitians?
If this sounds like you, make sure to read on... One of my biggest goals with this page is to help future dietitians gain exposure to some of the unique and amazing opportunities available to them. So, to start off with our awesome RD Spotlight, I'd love to introduce you to Stefania Palmer!
Where do you work?
I currently work as a dietitian for the Scarborough Health Network and in private practice. In my role at the hospital, I work as part of a pediatric obesity program alongside a pediatric endocrinologist, social worker, and exercise therapist. We work with families to help build healthier lifestyles and focus on goal setting around sleep, nutrition, physical activity, and mental health. My private practice is one that I do additionally on evenings and weekends. It allows me to counsel clients one-on-one and address a wide range of health goals, whether it’s reducing cholesterol levels or building muscle.
What was your path to get there?
My path to where I am now definitely was a winding road and far from the traditional “9 to 5” job that most expect! Much of my career has been filled with many smaller experiences that have led to new and different opportunities. My initial start in dietetics was in a pediatric feeding clinic at North York General Hospital. This is where I initially had exposure to sensory feeding issues and challenges in children with autism. I also started my private practice shortly after completing my post-graduate degree. Between these two opportunities, I was able to network with great clinicians (that I am still in touch with today!) and explore opportunities in the weight loss industry, corporate health care and now in community outpatient care.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
One of the hardest parts of my job is coming to terms with the fact that you can only help those that are ready and willing to hear your message. We may see a client who could easily make simple changes for better health but refuse to do so for one reason or another. This is difficult since we may never understand why someone couldn’t follow through with the change. Creating lasting behaviour change is very complex.
What do you love about your job?
I really enjoy building relationships and rapport with my clients, particularly children with special needs. It is so fulfilling to see the excitement when someone share their wins with you. When a parent tells me their child tried a new food and mealtimes are no longer a battle; when someone has lost weight and successfully kept it off with mindful eating; or when someone has lowered their blood sugars and avoided the need for medication – these are all the things that make the job so rewarding.
What’s one piece of advice for students who want to pursue a similar career?
Know your strengths and use them. Challenge that status quo and start to think of where YOU fit. If you love public speaking and are charismatic, perhaps hosting food demonstrations or being a media dietitian is your way to go. If you are very technical, you may be a good fit for highly technical roles like managing tube feeds or working in the ICU and dialysis departments of a hospital. If you dislike counselling, consider working behind the scenes on menu planning for corporations or pursuing food photography. Embracing your talents will make you more effective, not to mention happier, in your role.