Julia Besner, RD
LONG TERM CARE, FOOD SERVICE MANAGEMENT
for something nutrishus
Julia grew up in East Germany and has many food memories from her past. Like many of us, she didn't know what a dietitian did when she started university. I'm still amazed at all the different career paths we have available to us (hence this series!). Julia has worked from coast to coast in Canada and sees food as nourishing both our body and soul. Her work involves a lot of collaboration and advocacy and I can tell that she is caring and passionate about her career and clients.
Why did you become an RD?
I came to Canada to study so when I was picking a university and a field to study, it was important that I would chose a degree that would yield a job. I definitely always wanted to take sciences and choosing an applied science seemed the smartest step at the time. Even though I always had a great interest in nutrition and cooking due to being involved in sports, I definitely did not really know what an RD does when I started university. I am extremely grateful that I became very passionate about the profession and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
What area of dietetics do you work in?
I mainly work in Long Term Care (LTC) and Food Service Management in a Nursing home in Saint John, NB (New Brunswick). I also have my own consulting business on the side.
How would you explain what you do?
In LTC, our main focus is enhancing the quality of life of the residents. You constantly have to find that fine line between what is best nutritionally for the clients and what is truly best for the clients in terms of their quality of life. Often your most important job is to advocate for the clients and their wishes.
What are your typical daily/weekly tasks?
From a food service perspective, I am responsible for forecasting all of the meals on a weekly basis, and overlooking the food service operation in the nursing home. I collaborate with the chef and the kitchen regularly to ensure the quality of the food is satisfactory to our clients.
On the clinical side, I meet with all clients and their families upon admission to assess their nutritional status, likes and dislikes etc., and follow up with the them on an ongoing basis or whenever the need arises. I prepare individualized menus when necessary. I work closely with the other disciplines and clients’ families to ensure our clients’s clinical and personal needs are met. I am passionate about eating with dignity, and provide continuing education to staff. Advocating for my clients is very important to me, because food is comfort, food is memories and food is social.
What has been your career path?
I completed my university degree and graduate internship in Halifax. After graduation, I moved across the country to work as a sole Dietitian in a small town in BC. It was the best job a newly graduated Dietitian could have had. I learned so much in my first year as an RD due to the diversity of the job.
I then moved back to the Maritimes and worked in long term mental health for 3 years with clinical and food service management. From there, I took a job with a Nursing home and have worked there ever since. I recently started my own private practice to expand my skills in other areas.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
I am a lifelong learner and enjoy continuing my education. I frequently just read up on research pertaining to my field of practice. I enjoy podcasts and the online education on the DC website. Following the Dietitian Support Group on Facebook is very interesting, You can learn so much about all the different areas RD practice in. I have advanced my education in dysphagia management which has been most valuable in LTC.
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
Ideally, Dietitians will be the most trusted resources for nutrition information, and we will be integral parts of health care and disease prevention in every province of this country. There is so much potential for our profession, and I think we don’t even realize yet how much influence we could have.
What do people think you do for a living?
Sadly, the majority of people think I put people on diets and make meal plans that contain only ‘rabbit food’.
What misinformation about RDs would you like to clear up?
To add to the previous question; having this misperception of what we do also comes with the assumptions that RDs also only eat vegetables and salads. Of course I am being a little sarcastic here, but what could be more annoying than enjoying a meal somewhere and someone comes up to you and says “ I can’t believe you are eating this. I thought Dietitians only eat vegetables”? We are human after all, and I think that goes for our practice too. We are humans helping other humans to live healthier lives. We mostly understand all the struggles our clients have as well, and I think that makes us great RDs.
What are you passionate about in dietetics?
I am truly passionate about food; what it can do to our bodies and souls in a positive way. I truly think that in a world of processed foods, people have lost their connection with food, how to use it and even how to taste and enjoy it, let alone how food can nourish us in so many ways. I love food and cooking with it. I love watching my family eat and the memories we make around food and special occasions. As mentioned before I use my passion around eating with dignity in my job. LTC is the last step for almost every one of my clients. They have a life full of experiences and memories; a lot of them around food, so helping them bring back some of their memories and enjoying the last moments with personally acceptable foods brings me a lot of fulfillment in a setting where death is around us daily.
What is your favourite meal?
This is actually a difficult question. When I think of favourite meals, special occasions come to mind that I got to spend with family. I love enjoying meals with a big crowd. Often the best company makes the food most delicious. My mother used to make pizza for Christmas. I still have the greatest memories of enjoying this homemade pizza with my entire family. I grew up in a country without fast food and especially in the winter time the food choices were sparse, so enjoying a pizza at Christmas was the best thing a kid could enjoy. All my favourite meals are attached to memories from my childhood.
More about Julia:
Facebook: Fundy Nutrition Consulting