A dietary aide is an individual who works with a nutritionist to plan, prepare, and deliver meals, often to people in institutions such as nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, or hospitals. The different dietary aide jobs may vary depending on the training that the dietary aide has received; some will simply be responsible for assembling and delivering trays of food, while others may do additional work with patients and the nutritionist who is designing the meal plan. This type of dietary aide may help to track a patient's eating habits and food preferences, and use that information to assist in meal planning.
Dietary aide jobs will nearly always involve some work in the kitchen, even if it is not actual food preparation. The dietary aide may be responsible for creating each person's tray based on instructions from a nutritionist or doctor. Often, this careful food selection is being done to help someone get or stay healthy, maintain a specific weight, or receive proper nutrition in order to heal after an illness or operation, so it is very important that each meal is prepared correctly. Some people in basic dietary aide jobs will receive training on the job, but most are expected to have completed some training in food service, often in high school or at a technical career institute.
Delivering meals to the patients is usually a part of most dietary aide jobs, and a dietary aide should have a pleasant demeanor and strong social skills. The dietary aide may also come back to pick up the tray when the patient is finished, and may be responsible for making notes on how much was eaten or any food preferences that the patient shares, which may then be shared with the nutritionist. Usually a dietary aide will also need to maintain records on when a meal was delivered, to help ensure that every patient receives the proper amount of meals per day. This record-keeping can also be an important part of most dietary aide jobs.
Clean-up may be another aspect of dietary aide jobs, and will usually involve cleaning and sanitizing items in the kitchen. Most dietary aides work daytime shifts, though it may involve early mornings or somewhat late nights if one is assigned breakfast or dinner shifts. Some dietary aides find that they enjoy the work and may decide to receive further training in order to become a nutritionist and continue to work with patients at a more advanced level, improving their health through careful dietary management.