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Do I Need A Referral To See A Dietitian?

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Do I Need A Referral To See A Dietitian?

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • A registered dietitian or registered dietitian nutritionist is a licensed healthcare professional specializing in human nutrition. 
  • In most cases, you do not need a referral to meet with a dietitian; however, this requirement may vary per state.  
  • Nourish offers individual nutrition counseling services nationwide and can connect you with a registered dietitian without a referral. 

A registered dietitian (RD) is a health professional specializing in diet and nutrition. They offer nutrition education by providing counseling services to those in need. 

Working with a dietitian can be a life-changing experience for people who suffer from daily diet-related symptoms. Examples include digestive disturbances such as bloating and cramping and people who face dietary challenges due to allergies, restrictions, or chronic disease management. 

In most states, you do not require a referral to work with a dietitian. However, this may change based on your state - especially if you want coverage from an insurance company. In this article, you’ll learn why seeing a dietitian can benefit your health and how you can access an RD without a referral. 

Do I Need a Referral to See a Dietitian? 

In most states, you can meet with a dietitian without a referral. In most cases, you can access a dietitian by self-referring and contacting a provider directly to book an appointment. 

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Who Can Give Me a Referral?

If you ever need a referral to meet with a dietitian, follow the instructions on the referral form. They may request a referral from a family physician, a nurse practitioner, or another clinician (depending on the type of nutrition support you are seeking.)

What is a Dietitian? 

A registered dietitian (RD) or dietitian nutritionist is a licensed health care professional specializing in nutrition. To become an RD, you must earn a bachelor's degree (and a master's degree as of 2024), complete 1200 practicum hours, and pass a state licensing exam. 

An RD may work in a clinical setting, such as a hospital or medical office, or pursue other avenues in the food industry or public health. They are trained to share their knowledge with others and often act as nutrition educators, whether through individual counseling or policy development on a larger scale. 

RDs who work directly with patients may specialize in a nutrition topic, complete additional education, or earn credentials. Examples include a diabetes educator or a lactation consultant. You should seek a specialized RD to receive the best possible care if you have a specific health goal. 

How Dietitians Help Manage Health Conditions 

Throughout their education, RDs learn about nutrition's role in a person's physiology and health. Many health conditions can benefit from a multi-pronged approach, including medication, counseling, and nutrition changes. 

Research has shown that patients who work with a dietitian can improve their A1c (a blood biomarker that presents a three-month average of blood sugars), cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and relationship with food

What to Expect From Your Dietitian Appointment

At Nourish, all appointments are scheduled for sixty minutes. You can expect to review your diet and medical history, food preferences, and nutrition goals.

Towards the end of your visit, you may create nutrition goals to work on until your follow-up appointment. A dietitian can teach you how to create an achievable goal following the SMART methodology. Each goal should be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and follow a timeline. Below is an example of a SMART goal compared to a non-SMART goal: 

  • I will increase my fruit intake over the next month by adding one apple, orange, or banana to my breakfast Monday through Friday. Vs. I want to eat more fruit. 

Your SMART goals will vary depending on your health priorities, but the most important thing to remember is that they should be realistic and achievable. A benefit of working with a dietitian is the accountability to help you successfully meet your goals. 

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Questions to Ask During a Dietitian Visit 

The questions you ask your dietitian will vary depending on your nutrition goals. Below are examples of questions on popular nutrition topics. 

General nutrition questions: 

  • Are organic foods healthier than non-organic? 
  • How many servings of fruits and vegetables do I need? 
  • Am I getting enough of a specific nutrient? (Common ones include iron, magnesium, and calcium.)

Diabetes-related questions: 

  • Can I still eat sugar despite having diabetes?
  • Can I follow a meal plan to improve my blood sugar? 
  • How can I interpret my fasting blood sugars? 

Digestive health questions: 

There is an abundance of nutrition misinformation online, and all questions about diet and nutrition are welcomed during your appointments. Your RD wants to clarify any questions and provide reliable nutrition information so that you can build your nutrition knowledge and feel more confident in building an eating plan.

Can You Speak To A Dietitian Over The Phone or Online? 

Your personal information must be safely secured when you meet with a healthcare provider. Currently, all virtual appointments must be conducted over a HIPPA-compliant platform. These programs must pass rigorous safety standards to protect your health information. 

Phone calls are deemed HIPPA compliant as long as safety measures are taken to ensure the conversation remains private. Your provider should wear earbuds so the conversation can’t be overheard. Ideally, the phone call is completed alone in a private room. 

Some insurance companies will not provide coverage for telephone medical visits, and you will need to ask your insurance provider for more details.

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Tips On Choosing The Right Dietitian

Although all dietitians must meet rigorous standards to practice dietetics, you may end up clicking with one RD over another. Finding a personality that matches yours is important for a meaningful provider-patient relationship. 

Finding the right dietitian for you may take a few tries, but developing a trusting relationship with your clinician is essential. They will make you feel heard and supported and, most importantly, safely guide you to achieving your health goals.

Takeaway

In most states, you do not need a referral to work with an RD. You can self-refer to a dietitian in private practice or sign up with a Telehealth company, such as Nourish, to gain access to vetted nutrition professionals. 

An added bonus of working with Nourish is the opportunity to work with specialized RDs. It takes out the guesswork of spending hours on Google trying to find someone reliable. You can redirect that precious energy into your nutrition visits and improve your diet today.

How Nourish Can Help

Making dietary changes under the guidance of an RD can make things easier. They can offer specialized advice that applies directly to you, which can help you achieve your health goals faster. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can you self-refer to a dietitian?

Yes, in most states, you can self-refer to a dietitian. If you are unsure about the referral process, contact the provider and inquire for more details.

When should you be referred to a dietitian?

Ideally, you should be referred to a dietitian as soon as possible. Taking a practice approach can help prevent the onset of disease and help you manage symptoms before they escalate and decrease your quality of life.

Why would someone need a referral for a dietitian?

Someone may need a referral to a dietitian if there is a highly specialized program, and the patient needs to be assessed to ensure the services will be helpful to the patient. Other times, a referral may be necessary to satisfy insurance purposes, but this will vary per state.

References

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Nourish has strict sourcing policies and prioritizes primary sources, including medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about our medical review process and editorial guidelines.

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Your Result

Your results are in!

While you don’t seem to be at risk for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes based on this quiz, please contact your healthcare provider with any concerns. If you want to learn more about diet and lifestyle changes with diabetes, find a registered dietitian covered by insurance with Nourish.

Your Result

Your results are in!

You should seek guidance from your healthcare provider about the possibility of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

If you want to learn more about diet and lifestyle changes with diabetes, find a registered dietitian covered by insurance with Nourish.

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