Get to know a Horizon Registered Dietitian

March is Nutrition Month and we want you to get to know some of Horizon’s dedicated staff who work to help patients get healthy every day.

Donna Warner is a registered dietitian (RD) at Horizon’s Saint John Regional Hospital (SJRH), with more than 18 years of experience.

Q. What is your academic and professional background?

I completed a Bachelor of Science, Human Nutrition with Honors at St. Francis Xavier University.

From there, I did a dietetic internship at Horizon’s The Moncton Hospital. My first nutrition job was working as a RD with Atlantic Superstore.

Since I began working I received a diploma in Health Professional Education under the Masters of Education Program at Memorial University.

Today, I work with patients in oncology, psychiatry, and infectious disease.

Q. As a dietitian, what does a typical day at work look like?

Every day is different. I check for new consults, messages or requests and see if I have any new patients who require a nutritional screening.

I review the patient’s chart before seeing them. I would then chart and enter orders, such as food preferences, tube feeding, consultations, etc) as needed. 

My day also includes interdisciplinary team rounds, outpatient clinics, and outpatients and inpatient units, where I coordinate nutritional care to complement patients’ medical care plan. 

Q. What is the biggest misconception about registered dietitians?

There are several, but the biggest one is we are “food cops.”

Food is very personal and we all have very personal reasons for why we eat the way we do.

Q. When has your input made a significant difference in a patient’s health?

One of my mantras is to always leave someone in a better state than you found them. Through this career, I’ve met so many amazing, brave individuals.

One year I was on my way to work and I kept getting messages about how one of my patients talked about me on the Saint John Regional Hospital’s Love Your Hospital Radio-thon and everyone heard it. It was one of my patients who had been diagnosed with head and neck cancer.

After his treatment I encouraged him to go to the YMCA survivorship program and to get back to healthy eating as he recovered.

Well, he recovered and not long after he ran his first race.

Q. As a registered dietitian what nutrition information do you wish everybody knew?

Diets don’t work! We have become so obsessed with body image and size we have reduced the potential of food to calories and pounds. It’s quality over quantity.

Q. How do you stay up to date with the latest research in nutrition?

It’s difficult, but I read A LOT. I get notifications when new articles are published, I have an interdisciplinary team that I learn from, I attend conferences, the other RDs are amazing resources. And of course, I learn from my patients’ questions.

Q. How do you think the role of the registered dietitian will evolve?

If you look at the original roots of nutrition, it started with home economics classes and moved to the human nutrition courses of today. It’s amazing how far we have come, from recipes to medical nutrition therapy.

Q. How can we help other health care professionals understand the importance of registered dietitians?

As a profession, we need to educate people on what we do.

People need to understand that food is physical, mental, social, emotional, financial, spiritual and that it affects everything and everyone.  

Regardless of your medical treatment, it won’t work as well if the body is malnourished. Nutrition is the foundation for all other medical therapies.