Learning our ABC's are easy, but what's an RDN, LDN, CDE?
Recently it has come to my attention that a large majority of the public may not understand what all the different letters behind my name truly mean. Why can't it just be something easy like a dash with a title Health Coach, Weight Loss Counselor, Blood Sugar Buster, or Nutrition Navigator. Others may wonder if I sell something like a fabulous supplement that they can add to their water, skim milk or almond milk to allow their bodies to become transformed. Sorry, I do not. Lately, I've even met some people that have take a nutrition course, seminar, read a book and now are starting their own venture to help others. Good for them. But, what makes me different from your neighbor selling supplements or a friend helping you to become healthier? The answers are behind all those fun letters behind my name. So let's start at the beginning.
RDN - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, but only a registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) has completed multiple layers of education and training established by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). In addition to holding a bachelor's degree, an RD or RDN must fulfill a specially designed, accredited nutrition curriculum, complete an extensive supervised program of practice at a health care facility, foodservice organization or community agency and pass a rigorous registration exam. That part was just to get the initial letters - RD or RDN. Every 5 years RD's and RDN's have to submit documentation to support their continued education equal to a minimum of 75 hours in the field. Hmm, I've been in the field 16 years. I've had to submit continuing education for 3 cycles at 75 hours each. That's over 225 hours of continuing education as a minimum just to maintain my initial credentials at this point in my career.
LDN - Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist
Many states now have licensure laws for dietitians and nutritionists. A licensed dietitian nutritionist has met their states education requirements necessary to practice their field of expertise. If your hair dresser needs a license to show that she completed the requirements to style and treat hair, shouldn't your nutritionist have a license as well?? However, in states with no licensure, there is little regulation over the use of the term “nutritionist” and the third-party verification of qualifications, education and experience that is part of the licensure process was never conducted.
In many states it is a VIOLATION of state law to practice dietetics without a license. Check out the Commission of Dietetic Registration to see if your state requires licensure for a nutritionist to practice. If your state does not require licensure, make sure you are seeking a nutrition expert that is a credentialed expert such as a registered dietitian nutritionist.
CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
This is perhaps the credentialing title that means the most to me. Before sitting for another rigorous exam I had to
1) Meet the discipline/licensure requirement - Whew, I was already a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist!
2) obtain minimum professional practice experience (2 years working in an outpatient diabetes center) providing Diabetes Self Management Education; as well as
3) obtain minimum continuing education hours (15 more education hours related only to diabetes); and lastly
4) apply and pay the application fee. (Yes, I love to pay $$$ for exams.)
Similar to my RDN credentials I need to maintain continuing education hours every 5 years to show that I am still learning about this ever changing field of diabetes.
So, as you can see I'm very proud of my education background and the professional organizations that I belong to. It continues to be a lot of hard work, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm excited that so many people are interested in nutrition! It's never been a better time to learn to take care of yourself. Let's meet sometime soon and see how My Time Nutrition can get you on the path toward a healthier you!