Becky Kerkenbush, MS, RD-AP, CSG, CD
CLINICAL DIETITIAN - ADVANCED PRACTICE, WATERTOWN REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER
for something nutrishus
Becky was so happy to find the series as she wanted to share her story and help inspire others, and I'm glad she did! She is very involved with groups within the profession which is a great way to connect with other dietitians. I think we continue to see how caring dietitians are in their work, their volunteer positions and in how they give back. We are lucky to have people like Becky in the profession, sharing their passions, skills, and knowledge to help others.
Why did you become a RD?
Food is a vital part of everyone’s life and a common denominator across populations and generations. We eat for a multitude of reasons: to socialize, to celebrate, to deal with stress, to combat cravings, to battle boredom and to nourish our bodies. I became a registered dietitian to help people learn how proper nutrition can enhance wellness, aid in recovery, and prevent or treat certain condition.
What area of dietetics do you work in?
I am a clinical dietitian at Watertown Regional Medical Center in Watertown, WI. While the majority of my time is spent in the acute care setting, I also have the opportunity to teach community nutrition/cooking classes and speak with students at local schools. I am fortunate that my position allows me the opportunity to work with not only those that are acutely ill and in need, but those that are looking to start or continue their health journey.
How would you explain what you do?
I provide medical nutrition therapy (MNT) to hospitalized patients. Medical nutrition therapy includes individualized assessment, intervention, monitoring and follow-up of a patient’s nutrition care plan. It is an evidenced-based therapeutic approach to treating medical conditions and their symptoms. I am the Media Representative for the Wisconsin Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, as well as the Nominating Committee Chair-elect for the Healthy Aging Dietetic Practice Group (DPG). I belong to the Clinical Nutrition Managers DPG and the Nutrition Support DPG as well. I also have the joy to serve as a preceptor for dietetic interns through the UW Health Dietetic Internship program.
What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
As a clinical dietitian, I am an integral part of the multidisciplinary team. I work with the health care team to coordinate medical and dietary needs. About 1/3 of patients admitted to the hospital are malnourished. My job is to identify those that are malnourished or at risk for malnutrition and to devise an individually-tailored nutrition care plan. I assess a patient’s nutritional status by obtaining a diet history, performing a nutrition focused physical exam, reviewing laboratory data, and conferring with other team members. I also provide education and counseling to patients and their families. I am happy to be able to incorporate my background in community health education with other organizational activities. I assist with the creation, organization and instruction of community nutrition/cooking classes. Two of my favorite classes are a children’s fall fun snack class and a make-your-own flatbread class. I also enjoy teaching elementary school field trips where children learn about fruits and vegetables and make their own pizzas. I have also been blessed to consult with a local congregate meal site, reviewing recipes and providing nutrition education materials.
What has been your career path?
I have always had a passion for health. When I obtained my degree in Community Health Education, I realized that I was drawn to nutrition. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, I ventured on for my dietetics degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My first job lead me to a skilled nursing facility, which was part of a small community hospital. I not only worked in long-term care there, but also in the outpatient setting. This offered me a diverse work experience and a valuable foundation for nutrition knowledge and skills. After this, I wanted to work in clinical nutrition and I’ve been there ever since. Clinical nutrition allows me to continue my work with the geriatric population, as well as practice in the areas of nutrition support, acute illness and chronic disease.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
Ideally, the field of dietetics/nutrition and dietitians will be on the forefront of preventative medicine 5 years from now. We will be well known and respected as the food and nutrition experts. Nutrition professionals and resources will be more accessible to the general public.
What misinformation about RDs would you like to clear up?
We don’t all wear hairnets (although I do!). Dietitians are fortunate to be able to practice in a wide variety of settings, from hospitals and schools to businesses and super markets.
What would you like people to know about RDs?
We are not here to judge! Everyone has his/her own journey. Dietitians provide information, education, guidance and hopefully inspiration.
What are you passionate about in dietetics?
I am passionate about geriatric nutrition, identifying and addressing malnutrition, and assisting those with food insecurity. If you think about it, all three of these areas are intertwined.
What is your favorite meal?
My favorite meal is from “Harvest Market”, the restaurant at Watertown Regional Medical Center. Our philosophy is that “fast” food can be fresh, affordable and healthy. My go-to meal is a skillet that includes salmon, mixed vegetables and quinoa in a soy ginger sauce.
More about Becky:
Facebook: Becky Schicker Kerkenbush
LinkedIn: Rebecca Kerkenbush
AskMeAnything: Becky Kerkenbush