When people think about the role of dietitians, many don’t realize the far-reaching responsibilities they manage on a daily basis. Parkview’s talented, dedicated team spends their time coaching, consulting and encouraging a constant rotation of patients for a variety of conditions. To celebrate National Nutrition Month, we reached out to a pair of dietitians who spend their days serving the men and women of our community.
Both Nick and Lauren came to their careers in nutrition as a result of a personal passion for the field. Desk neighbors and collaborators, they are invested in educating patients and the public about the food choices they can make to lead their best lives. All of this and more make these team members two of the devoted, invaluable People of Parkview.
Name: Nick Patterson, RDN, CD
Name: Lauren Mullins, RDN, CD
Nick: Clinical Dietician
Lauren: Clinical Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Describe your education and career journey:
Nick: I actually started here, in my hometown of Fort Wayne, in the fall of 2012 at IPFW and then transferred to Purdue University in the fall of 2014 to complete my coursework and my dietetic internship. For my internship, I was placed at Parkview Health for three of my rotations and IPFW for my last rotation. I graduated in the spring of 2017 from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science with Academic Distinction. From there, I accepted a position at Parkview Regional Medical Center as a Clinical Dietitian and took my national exam to officially become a Registered Dietitian.
Lauren: I went to Bowling Green State University to study Food and Nutrition Sciences. I graduated from BGSU in May 2009 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Dietetics. In April 2010, I was accepted into Ball State University’s graduate program. The beginning of 2011 was the start of my internship experience with Parkview Hospital. I began my clinical rotation at Parkview Hospital Randallia. After completing my clinical, food service and community rotations, I began studying to take the national exam to become a Registered Dietitian. I passed the exam in December 2011 and began working with Parkview as a Clinical Dietitian covering the Continuing Care Unit at Randallia in April 2012.
What inspired you to pursue this profession/specialty?
Nick: Growing up, I played basketball and eventually became interested in exercising and lifting weights to improve my performance on the court. While I was seeing progress, I was very sore after my workouts and I felt my performance wasn’t always at its best. That’s when I started to become interested in nutrition and read everything I could on the topic, and I saw drastic improvements. Ever since then, it has always been an interest of mine.
Lauren: I have always had an interest in health, wellness and possessing a true passion for helping others.
What are your daily responsibilities?
Nick: I mainly cover the fifth and third surgical floors and I also cover the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Some of the daily responsibilities include:
- Collaborating with physicians to diagnosis malnutrition by identifying risk factors and performing nutrition focused physical assessments.
- Initiating and managing enteral nutrition (tube feedings) for patients.
- Calculating the nutritional needs for patients receiving parenteral nutrition (IV nutrition).
- Providing nutrition education to improve the quality of life for patients with diseases such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, heart disease and more.
- Participating in collaborative rounds with physicians, pharmacists and other specialties to provide excellent care to every patient.
Lauren: My daily responsibilities include addressing consults we receive from doctors and nurses, following up on patient’s appetites and supplement intakes, initiating tube feedings or parenteral nutrition, educating patients and their families on therapeutic diets, ensure adequate nutrition for wound healing and assessing patients for malnutrition risk.
What are some of the unique challenges of your position?
Nick: While my job responsibilities are fairly consistent, each day brings new challenges as new patients are constantly coming in. With this, there are many factors that are involved in developing an appropriate plan for each patient and making sure each patient has the best experience at Parkview.
Lauren: It can be challenging when I encounter a patient or family that is not ready to make lifestyle changes to better their health. It makes me happy when I see patients eating well and healing, but occasionally I encounter patients that have poor appetites that have resulted in weight loss and prolonged illness.
The most rewarding?
Nick: Being able to communicate with patients and knowing how much of an impact I can have on their lives is very rewarding. Even if it is just speaking to them briefly in their room, just knowing a Registered Dietitian is there to help them recover makes a tremendous difference.
Lauren: I truly enjoy working to help patients identify which goals they would like to achieve first and what changes they are willing to make rather than overwhelming them with info. I find it rewarding when I see a patient feeling motivated to change and asking questions on how I can help them further on their journey to better health.
What is the most surprising fact about nutrition?
Nick: While not exactly a nutrition fact, something that fascinates me is that 45-65 percent of the adult human body is composed of water. This shows the importance of adequate hydration throughout the day. Even a 2 percent reduction in body water can leave you feeling fatigued.
What is the best advice for achieving a healthy relationship with food?
Nick: One of the best ways to achieve a healthy relationship with food is to avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad”. Instead, take time to understand what a healthy eating pattern looks like and build habits from this.
Lauren: Listen to your body’s hunger cues. It can be easy to overeat or avoid eating when experiencing different emotions such as feeling stressed, happy, bored or sad.
What role does food play in healing the body?
Nick: Some of the most important nutrients for healing include protein and an array of vitamins and minerals. If our bodies are deficient of these nutrients, the healing process will be slowed and may even stall completely until we consume the appropriate amounts.
What is your greatest passion outside of work?
Nick: Anything that keeps me active, including exercising, going to the lake, fishing, traveling and being outdoors in general.
Lauren: My beautiful family which includes my loving husband, Nate, my adorable daughter, Norah, and my feisty dog, Jasper. In my spare time, I enjoy playing volleyball and volunteering at my church.
If you could tell people to read one book in their lifetime, which would it be and why?
Nick: This is a tough one. Personally, I really enjoyed reading “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey because the information in the book can be applied to so many different areas of your life.
What would we find on your bucket list and what do you plan to check off next?
Nick: One thing I would like to do is travel to new places. I have only traveled the east coast of the United States and the only time I have been out of the country was to Canada for a camping trip as a kid.
Lauren: I would love to take a trip to Europe someday with my husband as well as plan a summer vacation with some of my closest friends.
What’s the best piece of dietary advice you’ve ever received?
Nick: Always make sure to find eating habits that line up with your lifestyle and preferences. If it doesn’t, you will have a difficult time developing good habits and kicking bad habits. Remember, there is no “perfect” plan. You just have to find what works best for you and your lifestyle.
Lauren: There is no need to exclude any food group or restrict yourself so much that you don’t enjoy the food you are eating or the life you are living. Food should taste good! It is important to educate yourself and learn what it means to eat a balanced diet in order to live a long, healthy life.