You Spelled “NIRD” Wrong

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I'm a dietetic intern in the 21st century, so I must be naturally technically inclined, right? After all, I can design a PowerPoint presentation, create an Excel spreadsheet and send emails. I have many social media accounts. I have used CBORD foodservice systems and various electronic health-care programs. And I have been asked for my help (by people older than me) regarding technological issues. However, I would not consider myself technically inclined — especially after my most recent rotation.

My preceptor, a member of the Nutrition Informatics Committee of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, proved that my knowledge and practice of informatics was not as advanced as others expected. In fact, according to the competencies within the National Delphi Study, I am barely a beginner!

Why am I professing my minimal knowledge of informatics and computer skills? As technology and informatics continues to expand in the world of nutrition and dietetics, every registered dietitian nutritionist, dietetic intern and student needs to understand and utilize all areas of informatics. As I previously mentioned, I am certainly capable of creating an Excel spreadsheet … but that is all. It wasn't until my preceptor showed me the many functions of Excel, such as exporting data from the Nutrition Data System for Research, proper conditional formatting, sorting columns and interpreting data that I really understood the program's power.

Throughout my undergraduate career, I feel it was assumed that every dietetic student already knew everything these highly specialized computer programs could do. Instead of assuming, it's time to teach students how to use every aspect of these vital computer programs. Creating a more concrete technology curriculum for all undergraduate nutrition and dietetic students would be a leap in the right direction for the profession.

And, I'm not the only one who feels that way; according to the National Delphi Study, "Our profession is beginning to acknowledge the specialized area of nutrition informatics and how it will impact our practice." Let the acknowledgement grow and let the NIRD (that is, the "nutrition informatics Registered Dietitian") in you shine!

Brianna Laurila
Brianna Laurila is a dietetic intern at the Ohio State University and completed a research rotation at the Clinical Research Center through the Center for Clinical and Translational Science.