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© 2019 by RD Nutrition Consultants LLC

  • Katie M. Dodd, MS, RDN

Become a Specialist in Geriatric Nutrition


Are you a dietitian working primarily with older adults? If so, have you ever considered becoming certified as a specialist in geriatric nutrition? The Commission on Dietetics of Registration (CDR) offers the Board Certified Specialist in Gerontological Nutrition (CSG) credential to recognize experts in this field.


Geriatrics in a Specialty Area


Dietetics is such a wonderful field. We have dietitians working in a variety of settings with diverse populations. From pediatrics to oncology to public health to food service- dietitians have so much to offer. However, it is difficult to know every single thing about every single aspect of our field. That is why I always encourage students and peers; in whatever you do, specialize.


The CSG is one of six specialist certifications offered through CDR. Other certifications offered through CDR include pediatric nutrition, renal nutrition, oncology nutrition, sports dietetics, and most recently obesity and weight management (1). Some other common specialist credentials dietitians may obtain outside of CDR include Certified Diabetes Educator® (CDE), Certified Dietary Manager (CDM), Certified Nutrition Support Clinician® (CNSC), Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES), and Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD).


When it comes to the geriatrics, dietitians aren’t the only professions offering specialist credentials. A simple google search will uncover that there are also geriatric certifications for physicians, psychiatrists, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, social workers, physical therapists, etc. In 2014, 14.5% of the US population was aged 65 or older and this number is projected to reach 23.5% by 2060 (2). The need for specialists in geriatrics is certainly growing.


Benefits of Becoming a Specialist


If you are still reading this article, I am assuming that you may already feel there could be a benefit to becoming a CSG. If you are on the fence, here are some solid reasons on why it would benefit you to obtain the CSG:


The first is pretty obvious, but it is the opportunity to further develop yourself professionally. To dive deeper into a specific area and to improve your skill set and what you have to offer. Having the CSG provides you added credentials to your name and another line on your resume. It sets you apart as an expert in your field and your name will be listed in the CDR directory for board certified specialists.


If you are looking for something more substantial, how about the fact that the CSG qualifies you for 75 Continuing Professional Education Units (CPEUs) towards your Professional Development Portfolio 5-year certification cycle required for maintaining your dietetics credential? Basically, if you obtain the CSG, you only need to get your 1 hour of required ethics training and your CPEUs are set for your 5-year recert cycle (3). I’m sure you will continue to get hours over the 5 years, but it’s less stress or worry about getting those hours.


According to the 2017 Compensation & Benefits Survey of the Dietetics Profession, having a specialty certification correlates with a higher hourly wage. Dietitians with the CSG make $3.28 more per hour than all RDNs at the 10th percentile of pay and $2.36 more per hour than all RDNs at the 90th percentile of pay (4). While having the CSG doesn’t guarantee you will be making more money, it does open the door for leverage when it comes to increasing your pay/compensation. This may vary depending on the setting or organization you work for, but this credential makes you a specialist and can provide weight in negotiating a bonus, a raise, new contracts, job flexibility, etc.


And finally, becoming a CSG has significant importance to the public. It enables patients to have access to better care with specialists in a specific field. Think about if you were diagnosed with diabetes. Sure, your general care provider knows a lot about diabetes and can probably manage your care- but wouldn’t you want to go to a provider who specializes in diabetes to ensure you are getting the very best care possible?


Do I Qualify?


It’s important to know that CSG dietitians work in a variety of setting- not just direct patient care. The gerontological nutrition dietitian definition is listed on CDRs website as the following (5):


“Gerontological nutrition dietitians design, implement and manage safe and effective nutrition strategies to promote quality of life and health for older adults. They work directly with older adults to provide optimal nutrition and food sources and information in a variety of settings (such as, hospitals, long term care, assisted living, home health care, community-based nutrition programs, food service industry, correctional facilities, governmental programs, related industries), or indirectly as documented by management, education or research practice linked specifically to gerontological nutrition.”


To become a CSG dietitian as defined above, you must meet specific criteria. You must have current Registered Dietitian (RD) status with CDR for a minimum of 2 years from original examination date and documentation of 2,000 hours of practice experience as a dietitian in the specialty area within the past five years. Education and professional experience can be substituted for some of the hours (5).


How Do I Apply?


Are you sold yet? Thinking about it? Or maybe you don’t meet criteria yet and are devising a plan to become a CSG when you do? Applying for the CSG is easy. You can apply on CDRs website at www.cdrnet.org. Log-in and click through options to apply for a specialist certification.


Once in the CSG application you will fill in your personal information, employment information, and document your hours. To confirm your practice hours, you simply need to add a supervisor who will confirm your hours via email. If you are a consultant it is a little more complicated, but still relatively easy. You will need to upload specific documentation to verify your hours; this may include tax/income/pay records/receipts/letter from accountant and brochure/information on your practice (5).


Once you complete your application, you just sit back and wait to receive a letter from CDR with a unique identification number that you use to schedule your exam. One thing to keep in mind is that CDRs specialty exams are conducted through an outside testing agency; you can go to the CDR website to see a list of anticipated test centers. This is important to note, especially if you live in a more rural area and have to drive to your test site.


Tell me more about this exam


The CSG exam includes 150 multiple-choice questions. Of these, 135 are scored and 25 are pretest (meaning unscored) questions. There is a content outline available online which determines what content is included in the exam questions. You will have 3 hours to take the exam and will find out before you leave if you passed (5).


You take the exam on a computer at a testing site during a specific time that you choose. You will need to bring 2 forms of identification (one must be government issued with a photo), so be sure you don’t forget these in the excitement of taking the exam. The site will provide you with a pencil and scratch paper while your personal belongings will be locked up during the exam.


Reducing Test Anxiety


Maybe you want get the CSG, but you are worried about taking an exam. Many dietitians well into their careers haven’t taken an exam in years; and test anxiety is real. Test anxiety includes having feelings of worry and self-doubt can interfere with your test-taking performance and can make you feel miserable (6). Test anxiety can affect anyone- even if you really know your stuff. It can definitely impact your ability to pass the CSG exam, so let’s briefly cover techniques to reduce test anxiety!


First off, make sure you study early and efficiently. Nothing can trigger test anxiety worse than the feeling that you don’t know an area of exam content! Learn relaxation techniques to help you stay calm and poised. You can perform relaxation techniques before and during the exam, such as deep breathing, relaxing your muscles one at a time, or closing your eyes and imagining a good outcome. Take care of yourself by getting good nutrition, exercise, and plenty of sleep (6). I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but sometimes it can be easy to forget about our own self-care.


And finally, if you have a legitimate learning disability- for example ADHD or dyslexia don’t ignore it. If you have a learning disability with proper documentation you can receive reasonable accommodation during the test, which may include more time or a private room (6).


Become a CSG


If you are ready to become a CSG, make a plan. Set a date to apply, obtain resources for studying, and decide when you will take the exam. Maybe the CSG isn’t for you, but if you can think of someone else it may be a fit for- refer this information on! And if you have any additional questions along the way, you can always call CDR at 1-800-877-1600 ext.5500. CDR has great staff who are available to assist you in becoming a specialist in geriatrics. Best of luck!


RD Nutrition Consultants LLC, is the industry leader in Geriatric Consultant Dietitian Services Nationwide. We specialize in providing contract Registered Dietitian services in a wide variety of healthcare and wellness organizations.


REFERENCES


1. Board Certified Specialist Home. Commission on Dietetic Registration website. https://www.cdrnet.org/certifications/board-certified-specialist. Accessed April 21, 2019.

2. Colby SL, Ortman JM. Projections of the Size and Composition of the U.S. Population: 2014 to 2060. Washington, DC: , U.S. Census Bureau, 2014.

3. Ethics Requirement for Recertification. Commission on Dietetic Registration website. https://www.cdrnet.org/news/ethics-requirements-for-recertification. Accessed April 21, 2019.

4. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Compensation & Benefits Survey of the Dietetics Profession: 2017. Chicago, IL: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2018.

5. Board Certified Specialist in Gerontological Nutrition. Commission on Dietetic Registration website. https://www.cdrnet.org/certifications/board-certification-as-a-specialist-in-gerontological-nutrition. Accessed April 21, 2019.

6. Sawchuk C. Is it possible to overcome test anxiety? Mayo Clinic website. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/expert-answers/test-anxiety/faq-20058195. Updated August 3, 2017. Accessed April 21, 2019.

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