A Fresh Perspective on Communication in Dietetics

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                        Austin Youngman: Registered Dietitian

Originally from Chillicothe, Illinois. Austin Youngman took a leap of faith and moved to the little town of Ruston, Louisiana in the fall of 2011 in pursuit of a degree in nutrition and dietetics. After four years of hard work and dedication, Austin graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics. He loved Louisiana Tech University so dearly, he decided to continue his education here just a little longer. Austin was selected as one of sixteen Louisiana Tech University dietetic interns, and began his 10-month journey in the fall of 2015. Immediately following the dietetic internship, Austin was offered a position at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois. Austin is currently a full-time Health and Wellness Dietitian, where he has many responsibilities including educating patients with chronic disease, demonstrating proper exercise techniques, developing wellness programs, and implementing effective strategies for weight management.

THE IMPORTANCE OF WRITTEN COMMUNICATION

When asked how heavily he relies on written communication, Austin replied, “I rely on written communication to complete almost 60% of my job. Basically, in the field of nutrition and dietetics, if it was not documented, it did not happen.” Austin went on to mention clear and concise documentation between registered dietitians is what allows him to properly prepare patients for weight management programs and improve their health outcomes. Additionally, written communication can also help him avoid any legal issues.

COMMUNICATION IN THE FIELD

Before becoming a registered dietitian, Austin was unaware of the amount of writing his job actually involved in order to fulfill all work obligations. He said, “On any given day, I may respond to at least 15-20 emails on top of the writing I do in patients’ charts.” However, Austin realizes undoubtedly proper communication is vital for success, not only for registered dietitians, but also other members of the healthcare team. “As the healthcare system is pushing a multidisciplinary approach, it is so important that registered dietitians and other members of the healthcare team can effectively communicate in order to provide the best care for our patients,” Austin added.

COMMUNICATION WITH PATIENTS

Austin feels as if verbal communication works best with his patients or clients. Speaking with a client one-on-one allows him to build rapport, which is very important as a young dietitian working with a majority older population. Austin mentioned, “Not only does this allow me to best convey issues, emotions, information, and data without being misunderstood, but it also allows for instant feedback, and may help me understand the intangible issues a client is struggling with.” However, Austin mentioned OSF St. Francis pushes motivational interviewing with weight management patients. A major component is having the patient or client write down goals for themselves, along with what they hope to gain from the session. Austin further explained, “I like to have my patients or clients write their goals on paper because research shows people are more likely to achieve goals they set for themselves, especially when they are written.” This is just one example of how written communication benefits Austin and his patients every day.

LAST WORDS FROM AUSTIN

“I can say that written communication plays a much larger role in my job as a registered dietitian than I ever imagined, and I feel that the importance and value of written communication needs to be stressed more in undergraduate nutrition,” Austin concluded.

Caitlin Finton, Guest Blogger

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