About DOD, Professional Development | Jul 11 2024

The essential guide to consultant dietitians: Hiring and job searching

Hiring a consultant dietitian and working as a consultant dietitian

A consultant dietitian is a registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who provides nutrition services on a contractual basis. These nutrition professionals typically work independently or as part of a consulting firm, offering their expertise in settings such as acute care hospitals, long-term care facilities, dialysis centers, community health centers and clinics, physician practice groups, schools, grocery stores, online, and anywhere else you may find a dietitian.

Where do consultant dietitians work? 

Many consultant dietitians choose to work for a staffing company. A staffing company streamlines the hiring process for both the dietitian and the hiring facility. The tasks of sourcing, recruiting, interviewing, onboarding, payroll, taxes and benefits are all handled by the staffing company, leaving the dietitian and the client to focus on providing quality patient care.  

In many dietitian staffing situations, a consultant dietitian can bridge the gap during a vacancy, FMLA, maternity leave, temporary census increase or provide support for special projects.

In this article:

FOR HIRING MANAGERS

How to hire a consultant dietitian 

Hiring a dietitian may be unfamiliar territory for clinical nutrition managers, food service directors or other hospital and long-term care facility employees who typically spend their time on patient care. The steps involved can add up to several hours per day. 

These include writing a job description, posting to job boards, recruiting, resume review, interviews, skills testing, credential verification, reference checks, background checks, drug screens, timekeeping, invoicing, payroll, benefits management, liability insurance, unemployment t taxes, workers’ comp. 

And then, what if the hire fails? The hiring process starts over and the spent on hiring doubles, or triples. Staffing companies like Dietitians On Demand exist to relieve the pressure of the time-consuming, expensive task of hiring. You’ll not only save hours of your own time, but you’ll be connected with a vetted, professional dietitian who is a great fit for your site.  

When it’s time to enlist the help of a dietitian staffing company, these tips will help: 

Seek coverage immediately 

The day a dietitian gives notice is the day supplemental coverage should be requested. Whether it’s for a vacation, maternity leave, leave of absence, FMLA, or a two-weeks’ notice, this allows you time to vet consultant candidates, sign paperwork, and have overlap before the existing dietitian’s last day. 

Decide what you need before requesting coverage 

Things like start date, how many hours per week, how many beds in the facility, average census, and duration of assignment are all crucial. Also, let us know if you need a dietitian with special skill sets, like NICU knowledge or foodservice finesse. 

Have an hourly rate in mind 

Knowing the budget for dietitian staffing will help you determine the best way to handle a dietitian staffing issue. 

Read more about the seven “green flags” to look for when hiring a dietitian. 

 

The best interview questions for a dietitian position 

Interviews seem to be a necessary evil when hiring a new dietitian. Most interviews last no more than an hour, and when deciding who you want to work with every day for the next several months to years, an hour seems woefully inadequate. So how do you get to know a complete stranger in an hour and decide if he/she is the right person for your business? Here are some of the best questions to maximize your interview and find the best dietitian. 

  1. Tell me about some of your achievements at your previous job (or internship).

This is a great way to find out the candidate’s strengths. Perhaps he excels at communicating with other clinicians on clinical matters. Maybe he has an acute attention to detail. Or, he can develop creative solutions to problems. What specific skills would bring value to your vacant position? 

  1. How do you build rapport with your patients/clients?

Knowing that your dietitians can quickly build trust with their patients is a must. Although a challenging question to answer, the best dietitians will know how to make a connection with clients that ultimately boosts their credibility and effectiveness of their nutrition interventions. 

  1. Tell me about your professional goals.

This is a version of, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” It invites the candidate to discuss the goals that complement her career, rather than her job trajectory. In addition to working at your facility, maybe this dietitian really wants to collaborate on a research study, present at a professional conference, or earn a specialty certification. The candidate’s answer can help you determine not only if she is a good fit for your company, but if your company is a good fit for her. 

Read the rest of the interview questions in this blog 

 

What is a dietitian staffing company? 

A dietitian staffing company specializes in providing consultant dietitian staffing services to fit client needs. Dietitians On Demand streamlines the clunky recruiting and hiring process. A personalized Regional Account Manager finds the ideal candidate for any situation and workplace culture. Clients spend less time searching for employees, and more time focusing on patient care. Start a facility coverage request here. 

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Dietitian staffing is flexible 

Do you need a dietitian for just a couple of weeks or months? For exactly 22.5 hours per week? To cover a temporary increase in census? Whatever your request is, Dietitians On Demand can cater to your needs. Since we are familiar with short-term coverage requests, our candidate pool is bursting with employees who want a temporary, flexible position. 

This is great news for a hiring manager! Instead of going through all the steps required to make a hire, tasks are all delegated to Dietitians On Demand. Posting the job, recruiting, interviewing, reference checks, payroll — check them off with one call. Now, that’s an efficient use of time. 

Dietitian staffing is fast 

When a hospital or nursing home is in a pinch because state surveyors or The Joint Commission are expected any day, speed is essential. 

Oftentimes, Dietitians On Demand can place a registered dietitian on-site days or even weeks sooner than if that dietitian were hired directly by the facility. We have a huge network of dietitians, many of whom with onboarding and screening requirements completed. 

Finding the best dietitians available 

From hospitality workers to technicians, nurses and even administrative office staff, healthcare hiring managers cover an array of positions. When it comes to hiring a registered dietitian, wouldn’t the best-case scenario be working with someone who knows if a dietitian is qualified for the job? 

Dietitians On Demand specializes in hiring registered dietitians (that’s all!). When you’re working with us, you’re aligned with experts in the nutrition field. We’ve honed our recruiting, interviewing, and screening techniques to know if a dietitian is right for a client. 

Another added perk — a facility can try out a dietitian for a short assignment before committing to a full-time hire. Should a facility decide the “temporary” dietitian is a great fit, it’s easy and risk free to make them an employee of the facility. 

 

How much does it cost to hire a consultant dietitian? 

Every client wants to know what to expect in terms of cost and rightly so. Because temporary dietitians work unpredictable schedules, short-term assignments, and often don’t receive health or retirement benefits, the hourly rate paid to a consultant will be higher than that paid to a salaried employee. 

Breaking down the bill rate 

With that said, the dietitian’s compensation is just one piece of the pie. In this blog, you can see a breakdown of the additional state and federally-mandated taxes and fees and other administrative costs that all roll up into our bill rates. 

Additionally, rates are determined based on the site’s location, the duration of the assignment and number of hours per week requested.  

 

Reasons to consider a travel dietitian 

If you’re reading this section, you probably find yourself in a staffing bind. Maybe your dietitian resigned? Is on maternity leave? Had a sudden, unplanned medical leave or family emergency? Or you just can’t seem to find the right dietitian to fit your needs? If you’re not sure whether you want to take a chance on a traveling dietitian, let’s take a look at the reasons why a traveler is the perfect solution for your dietitian staffing crisis. 

Traveling dietitians can be there lickety-split.  

Why wait (and wait and wait) to find a local dietitian to fill your vacancy when you can staff a traveling dietitian from Dietitians On Demand within just a few days? That’s right, DAYS. On average, we fill our contract jobs within six days. That means our traveler can be on site, doing awesome dietitian things faster than most HR departments can schedule an interview. 

Traveling dietitians are the most flexible professionals ever.  

By nature, traveling dietitians love an adventure. Our travelers have worked through hurricanes and state surveys, they’ve lived in RVs and B&Bs, and they can stay longer or return home early. They can adapt to census changes, policy changes, EMR changes, or whatever change you throw at them. Our traveling dietitians are practically unflappable. 

Traveling dietitians can hit the ground running. 

With your help, our traveling dietitians can begin assessing patients and residents on day one. They are independent, fast learners who need little more than a facility tour and EMR access to feel ready to go. In fact, don’t even try to put them through facility orientation; it will just slow them down. 

Read more considerations for hiring a traveling dietitian. 

 

FOR JOB SEARCHERS

How do I become a consultant dietitian? 

To become a consultant dietitian, it’s important to first become a registered dietitian. A registered dietitian is not the same as a nutritionist and in fact, there are important differences in terms of education, training, ethics, licensure and legal protection. 

To find out more, check out this blog that breaks down the differences between these nutrition professionals. 

Next, do your research. What type of job are you looking for? Criteria to consider are the job setting, location, hours (PRN, part-time, full-time, contract or permanent), the experience typically required and compensation. What are other dietitians in your clinical area, location and experience making? A great resource is the Compensation and Benefits Survey that is put out every two years by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  

Consider how much flexibility you want, and how much flexibility you’re willing to offer in exchange. Working as a consultant dietitian comes with the amazing benefit of choosing when and where you work, enjoying a wide variety of work experiences and quickly building up that resume. Consultant dietitians may earn a higher hourly rate, and this is usually because of the unpredictable nature of contract work. 

Listen to the podcast episode “How to look for dietitian jobs” 

 

Pay and benefits considerations for consultant dietitians 

Taking the leap into consulting work is something a dietitian should fully consider. Consulting is different than working a full-time, salaried position, and for many dietitians, this difference is a welcome change. There are a lot of reasons dietitians choose consulting. Flexibility, variety, experience and pay are just a few. 

Flexibility 

Consultant dietitians may travel, work locally, or do both. They have the option to chose which assignments they accept, how long to take a break between assignments, how many hours they have available and may even be able to negotiate better pay. 

Assignment durations range from a few months to a few years, and during that time a dietitian can work in a variety of settings, including acute care, long-term care, behavioral health, community health and other healthcare settings.  

One consideration with all this flexibility is that consulting gigs may be inconsistent or offer extended time off between assignments.  

Better pay 

Yes, consulting can be lucrative, and rewarding. Often, healthcare facilities utilizing a dietitian staffing company are in a pinch. A dietitian is needed for urgent coverage like unplanned FMLA or a vacancy. Because of the immediate demand, these positions pay a premium and can be advantageous opportunities for the dietitian available to cover. 

When evaluating a consultant dietitian job opportunity, consider the pay structure. Is your pay W2 or 1099? The difference can add up to a significant tax benefit, or a tax headache.  

Hiring or working as a 1099 independent contractor when W-2 employment is more appropriate is not without its risks. In fact, there are risks to both the contractor and employer. Independent contractors can risk tax audits and penalties to themselves personally, and they aren’t eligible for benefits such as paid sick leave. 

On the other hand, W-2 employees (including Dietitians On Demand consultant dietitians) are eligible for employer-funded paid sick leave, plus benefits like professional liability and worker’s compensation coverage.   

Podcast episode: Yes, consulting can be a lucrative career. 

 

Health benefits and training for consultant dietitians 

Benefits such as health insurance, dental, vision, 401(k), Sick Pay and continuing education aren’t always offered through an employer for consultant dietitians. While you’re out there caring for your patients, find a company that also wants to care for you. 

Every dietitian who takes a contract job with Dietitians On Demand, and works at least 30 hours per week, will be immediately eligible for a full benefits package. 

Dietitians On Demand also provides practical, easy-to-understand learning opportunities to registered dietitians. The extensive library of on-demand education resources includes webinars, infographics, case studies, training and more. Plus, employees are offered a $100 CPEU credit each month and granted exclusive access to a Clinical Competency program. The resources are designed by practicing dietitians and provide knowledge that is easy to understand and apply.  

 

Resume and application tips for dietitians 

Creating a resume can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! Whether you’re a dietetic intern looking for tips on how to stand out from the crowd, or a seasoned dietitian wondering what information a recruiter really looks at when skimming your resume, we’re here to spill the secrets that will make your resume shine. 

Dietitians On Demand Director of Operations (and seasoned recruiter) Kathleen Dracos, recently led a webinar on resume secrets. There were so many questions at the end of the webinar that we decided to have Kathleen answer them all for you here: 

How to organize a resume 

What advice do you have when applying for a position in another state? What is the best way to address relocation within your application? 

I do not advise putting your current address on your resume when you are willing to relocate. You can mention your willingness to relocate in your cover letter, or even highlight it at the top of your resume with a line like: Willing and able to travel. 

Employment history 

How do we avoid repeating the exact same bullets for similar jobs listed on our resume, especially for those of us who have had consecutive jobs/same clinical position? 

Good question! Think of some unique project or implementation that occurred while you were at your different clinical positions and highlight those. Maybe you implemented a new EMR, or maybe your hospital started performing the nutrition focused physical exam. Mention the different floors or disease states that you assessed. Giving something quantifiable might also differentiate the jobs. Specifics like number of assessments you complete, patient census – those are all probably different at each location. 

Resume advice for consultant dietitians 

If you have done a few different assignments for Dietitians On Demand, do you list it once as working for DOD or is it better to list each location where you worked? 

List your employment for Dietitians On Demand (or any continuous consulting experience) under one entry. Instead of one location, list “various locations” and then in bullet points list locations in chronological order with the corresponding dates. Since in that role your duties would generally be the same, you’d only need to list them once. 

Read all the resume secrets for dietitians in this blog. 

Revamp your resume with this free webinar. 

Download a free dietitian resume template. 

 

Interview tips for dietitians 

Set up a quiet space if it’s a phone interview

This will help you and the recruiter make the best connection – literally! Ideally a private space like an office or secluded spot in a building is best to take a phone interview call. This also shows you take the position seriously. If you must be in a less-than private hospital stairwell or some other public setting, make sure to let the hiring manager know up front so they’re not thrown off by background noise. 

Smile. 

As cheesy as it sounds, smiling while you talk on a phone interview changes the way your voice sounds. You’ll automatically sound more interesting and more interested in the position. 

Prepare a cheat sheet. 

We’re all about cheating when it makes you a better dietitian. Make some notes about the company you’re interviewing with, some of your accomplishments to talk about and your questions, and have them right in front of you during the interview. That’s a perk of being behind the phone! 

Find more interview tips for in-person and virtual interviews here. 

Have a copy of your resume handy. 

Chances are you landed an interview because a recruiter already saw your awesome resume, but having a copy on hand shows you’re prepared and proud of your experience. 

Be familiar with the position for which you’re interviewing. 

Hiring managers and recruiters know you’re applying to a few positions, and that’s OK! But if you agree to an interview, know who you’re interviewing with and everything you can about the company and the position. 

Keep email correspondence professional and concise. 

Aim to start every email with a greeting (ie: Hi Amanda). The body of the email should include complete sentences and appropriate grammar. And always sign your email with your name and phone number. 

Our recruiters see a lot of “Sent from iPhone” signatures and while they appreciate you responding on the go, we recommend updating that automatic signature. 

Think before you speak. 

If an interviewer stumps you, or you don’t have experience in an area you’re asked about, don’t panic. Think about related topics in which you do have experience, or express interest in learning something new. Avoid one-word answers and use definitive language – avoid space fillers such as like, um, stuff, things, you know. 

Write a thank you after the interview – email is fine 

A short note thanking the recruiter for their time goes a very long way. Don’t miss this step. 

Have your personal medical and health records organized. 

Every clinical dietitian will need documentation of certain health requirements in order to work. These requirements vary by hospital/long-term care facilities/rehabilitation hospitals etc., but having the basics such as documentation of your most recent PPD, vaccination records and flu shot will help the pre-hire process go smoothly. 

Have a reference list handy. 

Be prepared to offer your references right after an interview. A current reference sheet with correct contact information shows that you have plenty of people to vouch for your work. Your references should come to a recruiter as an attached document or contained in one email. Include phone number and email address of all your references. 

 

How to find travel dietitian jobs 

There are many healthcare staffing companies that hire dietitians for travel assignments, however, this is just one that specializes in hiring dietitians. That’s right, it’s Dietitians On Demand. Registered dietitians can browse open travel jobs on the job board, or submit a resume to the database. Using the keyword “travel” will bring up any position that includes travel reimbursement.   

If you’re open to any location or interested in talking with a Recruiting Specialist, the best option is to apply to the general travel job posting to get a resume into the database.  

What exactly is a travel dietitian? 

A traveling dietitian is someone who temporarily relocates for work. These assignments typically last several weeks to several months, and some even convert to a salaried position at the facility. A travel dietitian works for a consulting company (like Dietitians On Demand) at the client site.

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Where do travel dietitians work? 

Travel dietitians are scattered across the country from Maryland to Virginia to Florida to North Dakota and California, and they’re often in long-term care and acute care facilities. Travel positions pop up every day and are often filled quickly. (They don’t call us Dietitians On Demand for nothing 😉).  A lot of travel positions are in rural areas since it’s typically harder to find dietitians in those areas. This allows for some epic weekend trips. 

For all your traveling dietitian questions, read this blog. 

 

Next Steps 

The next move is up to you!  

Hiring managers: Let the team at Dietitians On Demand meet you wherever you are in the decision-making process. Our Business Development team specializes in solving unique dietitian staffing challenges.  

Dietitians: A Recruiting Specialist is the place to start. Whether you have a specific job in mind or just want information about what it’s like to work for Dietitians On Demand, they are the best guides. 

Who we are

Dietitians On Demand is the nationwide leader in providing dietitians with jobs they love. If flexibility, competitive pay, a full benefits package, free CPEUs each month and a team dedicated to dietitians sound good to you, apply to our positions today.

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