This article was originally featured on the Brigham Bulletin.
If you’re a patient of the Brigham’s clinical dietitian team, you won’t necessarily find yourself instructed to eat celery and broccoli all day.
“We find a lot of misconception about what ‘nutrition’ means and what dietitians do,” said Amanda Scippa, RDN, a clinical dietitian in the Department of Nutrition. “It’s important to know we aren’t here to judge what someone eats or automatically recommend low-calorie meals; we work closely with our patients to create personalized nutrition plans to help their bodies strengthen and heal,” said clinical dietitian Caitlin Blakeley, RDN.
It’s all part of the Brigham’s evidence-based, patient-centered nutrition program.
On any given day, the Brigham’s clinical dietitians manage patients requiring nutrition support, complete nutrition consults, work with multidisciplinary teams, and participate in patient rounds. These responsibilities coincide with caring for some of the most nutritionally complex patients, including those with severe burns or cystic fibrosis, who require prescriptions for intravenous nutrition therapy and tube feeds.
“Within 24 to 48 hours of when a nutrition consult is placed, we work with care teams to assess patients for malnutrition, collect diet information, and develop a nutrition plan,” explained Blakeley, who works closely with the Lung Transplant team. “It’s our job to ensure our patients’ dietary needs are met as part of their overall care plan.”
To do so effectively, the duo underwent a rigorous training process, including an 11-month internship, which included more than 1,200 practice hours in acute-care clinical nutrition, outpatient nutrition services, community nutrition, food service management, and nutrition research. Upon passing their registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) exam, Blakeley and Scippa joined the Brigham as entry-level dietitians in 2016 on the same day.
“I feel like an expert on how to feed complicated nutrition patients, which is professionally validating,” Scippa said. “Oftentimes, nutrition is a significant barrier to a patient’s well-being, which is really motivating to us as clinical dietitians; we want to do everything we can to remove that barrier.”
It’s motivational to the newest class of dietetic interns as well, whom Scippa and Blakeley now supervise, teaching them how to interview patients, track clinical progress, and provide the best possible care.
“Nutrition is so valued here at the Brigham,” Blakeley emphasized, adding that she enjoys working with her team and interacting with her patients each day. “It’s really rewarding to see patients improve and to know that the right nutrition care can help them get better.”
“Behind the Scenes at the Brigham” is a monthly series in Brigham Bulletin that provides a glimpse of the people whose everyday contributions help make the Brigham a world-class institution. Is there an individual or team you’d like to see featured? Send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.