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Megan Coleman is a part-time student in her second year of the Masterís in Nutrition Program at the College of Allied Health Sciences (CAHS).
Sheís also a registered dietitian and full-time Medical Nutrition Specialist at Lincare Enteral Services in Cincinnati. She was just awarded the companyís Achievement Award for Registered Dietitians (RDs) out of about 65 RDs in the country. As part of the award, she received a weeklong vacation, which she took to Sedona, Ariz.,with her mom.
How did you get into your current position?
"I did my undergrad here at UC, in the dietetics curriculum. Then I applied for the coordinated program, where I completed my undergraduate classes in three years and then did my dietitian internship in my fourth year.
"As part of my internship, I went to the Ohio Dietetic Association conference. It was a great networking experienceóI ended up walking up to the Lincare booth and they were looking for a dietitian in Cincinnati.
"When I was in my undergraduate class, I wanted to focus on pediatric nutrition. But now, being in the position I am with work, I found that I really like adult nutrition and gerontology. I think a lot of the job opportunities for dietitians are in that age, plus the population is getting older and living longer.Ē
What does your job entail?
"In my role, I write tube feedings for cancer patients, or any kind of patients who canít chew or swallow, including pediatric patients. Instead of sending these patients to a nursing home or assisted living facility, the current trend in the field is maintaining their quality of life at home. So Iím their home health dietitian. I monitor them on their home tube feeding and address their regimen based on their disease progression and their weight.Ē
"For example, if I get a patient with tongue cancer, I will do a nutrition assessment on them and then make a recommendation for the doctor. I typically visit patients at the hospital before they go home to explain what their tube feeding regimen will be.
"Once they go home, I follow up with them via the phone or an occasional home visit. For most patients, their tube feeding is short term, about three to six months.Ē
Tell me about your compliance award.
"Our primary job is to keep patients at home, compliant with their tube feeding and avoiding hospital readmissionódehydration is a big risk for that. Every six months, my company awards the dietitian with the best compliance rate, and in this last round, my area of Cincinnati had the highest rate ¨¨the company.Ē
"To increase compliance, Iíve developed a couple of different educational handouts for my patients. I found that, when you first become a dietitian, youĎve learned all of this information and you want to tell your patient everything. But itís the small tips that count.
"For exampleófor hydration, Iíll tell patients, ĎYou need 2,000 ml of water per day. So grab a lemonade pitcher or a two-liter pop container and fill it up. At the end of the day, it needs to be gone.í Thatís the best way to describe it to them, much easier than saying "2,000 ml is equivalent to this many cups per day, so fill up the cup this many timesÖí Ē
You have 260 patients in the Cincinnati area to manage with another dietitianóthatís a lot.
"Thereís a lot of organization that goes into it. And I think frequent follow-up calls help. If I think a patient is going to struggle at home, for example if they donít have family support, then Iím not just following up on a weekly basis, Iím following up every other day.
"Not only do they have tube feeding, some of these patients may be on oxygen, they have a wound, or they may be diabetic and have to take their insulin every day. Most patients just donít have one thing, they have multiple comorbidities. If my job is just making their life easy with tube feeding, and ensuring they stay with that, then Iím happy.Ē