Brenda Marie Schwerdt RDN, LD, CNSC
INPATIENT & OUTPATIENT CLINICAL
for something nutrishus
Brenda figured out that food science and nutrition were where she wanted to be, but her career choice wasn't what she expected she would fall in love with. She also studied enology, which I just learned is the study of wine and culinary skills remain a passion of hers. She's a fellow advocate for dietetics and dietitians with various media jobs above and beyond her day-to-day tasks.
Why did you become a RD?
In my early teen years I was really involved with sports, particularly dance. I thought I wanted to be a sports nutritionist or sports psychologist. Then at 15 years old I got my first food service job and fell in love with the restaurant industry. I knew I needed to make a career out of both food and nutrition.
What area of dietetics do you work in?
I work in clinical dietetics at a level II trauma hospital. I see a wide variety of patients in both inpatient hospital and outpatient clinic settings. I am a member of my hospital’s multidisciplinary hospice team and multidisciplinary oncology team. I also do quite a bit of media work on behalf of the hospital I work at and for our local dietetic association.
How would you explain what you do?
My main focus is ensuring hospitalized patients are getting adequate nutrition. This would include doing a nutritional assessment and then completing any necessary interventions. Inventions could include changing diet orders, providing education to patient and staff, and ordering nutrition support. I work in all departments in the hospital but mainly focus on the ICU and oncology units.
When working in the clinic I am helping people learn about nutrition to help manage their health at home. In the clinic I mostly see oncology patients and patients who require home nutrition support. However, I also see patients for obesity, failure to thrive, GI (gastrointestinal) issues, sport nutrition, allergies, and eating disorders.
I think it is really important to make the public know that registered dietitians are the nutrition experts so I try to be a vocal advocate for registered dietitians in our community. I have a bi-weekly newspaper column and have frequent segments on local TV stations, covering a wide variety of nutrition related topics.
What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
When I get to the hospital in the morning I get my daily assignment which may include a combination of inpatients, outpatients, media pieces, and meetings.
What has been your career path?
I did not apply to a dietetic internship when I was in college. I graduated from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities where I took many courses in food science and enology. My first job out of college was working for a wholesale wine broker. I was very excited to be in the restaurant world and thought the wine industry was really exciting. However, I started missing the science of both food science and nutrition. Five years out from college I applied to an internship and was accepted to my first and only choice. At the time I applied for my internship, I thought I would want to work in community health and public policy. I was surprised when I fell in love with clinical dietetics, particularly nutrition support. I really enjoy solving the complex puzzles to make sure people are getting adequate nutrition.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
I would hope that people seek out experts when looking for information. I would like the public to understand that RDs are the experts when it come to nutrition. With such easy access to create and obtain information it is difficult for my patients to know what is accurate. I would like to see RDs have a larger presence in mainstream media, grocery stores, and in community health organizations.
What misinformation about RDs would you like to clear up?
If you are my patient I am not going to criticize you for you food choices. I think a lot of people are intimidated to see a dietitian because they are embarrassed about what they eat and think a dietitian will restrict all the foods they love. I will not take away your favorite foods.
What would you like people to know about RDs?
As this blog shows, there is a huge variety in dietitians. Different RDs become RDs for different reasons. There are people in my office who are very passionate about heart health, diabetes, food access, culinary arts, pediatrics, and nutrition support; and I work in one clinical dietetic office. I approach dietetics from more of a culinary arts/food science perspective, so my way of working with a patient might be very different than a dietitian who approaches patients from a cardiac aspect. Because food can be a very intimate topic, it is important to work with a RD that you trust and is knowledgeable about your specific medical needs.
What do people think that you do for a living?
I don’t think most people know because I am asked so frequently. When I am working in the hospital and checking in on a patient the patient often thinks I am from the kitchen and in their room to take their meal order.
What is your favourite meal?
This is my most favorite question but also the most difficult to answer. It changes greatly depending on my mood and the weather! A classic is spaghetti and meatballs. I love seafood, especially shellfish, and top it with some pineapple infused melted butter. During the summer, I love grilling lots of vegetables; squash, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers to be served alongside a perfect medium rare steak. I’m a chocoholic, the darker the better.
What tip(s) would you give to our readers?
Learn to cook! It makes my job much easier when patients have a basic understanding of cooking.
More about Brenda:
LinkedIn: Brenda Schwerdt, RDN, LD, CNSC
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