Dietetic Career Spotlight on Niki Strealy, RDN, LD, The Diarrhea Dietitian
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on FEBRUARY 19, 2014
Niki Strealy, RDN, LD, better known as the Diarrhea Dietitian is an inspiration to all! From publishing her book, The Diarrhea Dietitian, to owning her private practice, Niki focuses on empowering all RDs to excel and grow our profession as the nutrition experts while getting paid for our worth. – Sarah
What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?:
I always knew I wanted to help people, and I loved studying human anatomy and physiology. Initially I wanted to be a doctor, so I began college in pre-med. However, I also wanted to be a mom someday. Being a full-time doctor and a mom would be a challenge for my perfectionistic personality. So I searched out other careers that would allow me the flexibility to work part-time while raising children.
At the beginning of my junior year of college, I shifted my focus to public health. One afternoon, I wandered into the office of the public health department head, and explained my story. She looked at the science classes I had already taken, coupled with my interests, and suggested I switch my major to dietetics. (“There aren’t many jobs in public health right now,” she said. “I am also a registered dietitian and I think this would be a great fit for you.”)
I had never heard of the field of dietetics, but lucky for me, the only dietetic program in our state was just across campus. I went over to the nutrition department that afternoon and met with their department head. She looked at my science background and interests, then explained the role of a registered dietitian in disease prevention and management. I was SOLD! I could tell right away this career would be a perfect fit.
I dove into my dietetic classes headfirst, graduating in 4 yrs with my bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Management. The following year I completed my dietetic internship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. I have been in my career for over 17 years, and I still love helping people through food and nutrition.
Your Job Title/Company you are with now:
Author: The Diarrhea Dietitian: Expert Advice, Practical Solutions, and Strategic Nutrition
Owner: Strategic Nutrition, LLC (this is both my publishing company and my private practice)
On-call Dietitian: Providence Portland Medical Center (Providence Health & Services is a hospital system here in the Pacific Northwest)
Other Social Media links you would like to include:
Facebook: Diarrhea Dietitian
A typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you?
I’m a mom of three, so I meet with clients while my kids are at school. When I’m not meeting clients, I spend a good deal of time on the computer, charting, writing, blogging, researching, or connecting with colleagues.
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
My first job was for a large health system. I have now worked there for 17 years, though now I only work on-call. When my manager needed to downsize my outpatient counseling office in 2012, I started my own private practice.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
I have always been a goal-driven high achiever. I think many RD’s are the same way, which is why dietetics was such a great fit! I am very passionate about improving people’s health and quality of life. I believe, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it!”
I have learned that as dietitians, we are always marketing… whether it be our services (such as a private practice or public speaking), our products (books, etc.), or a healthy lifestyle (through our own eating and exercise habits). It’s easy to “sell” something we truly believe in!
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
After 17 years in the field of dietetics, I can honestly say I still love my career choice. This career has given me room to explore my interests, expand my knowledge, and work as much or as little as I need to during the different seasons of my life.
Tidbits from years of experience:
· Never be afraid to ask questions. Ask your manager for a raise, a doctor why he is prescribing a particular treatment, or how you can help your clients/patients meet their goals.
· Nutrition doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Ask your patients about other areas of their life that are preventing them from reaching their goals.
· As the nutrition experts, we have value. We should never sell ourselves short or feel bad for charging for our services.
· Find the area of nutrition you are most passionate about, then do everything you can to learn about that topic, whether it be diabetes, heart health, oncology, eating disorders, pediatrics, community health, etc. Even if you have to take a job that is not in your desired area, stay focused and continue to move toward your goal.
My final thought: I think everyone should write a book. Going through the process has re-energized my passion for helping others through nutrition. In addition, it has opened new career doors I didn’t know existed!
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what would it be?
If I could choose to get paid for my work with something other than money, I would choose to be compensated through free marathon race entries. Running races is expensive!