Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition

Karen Wagner, MS, RD
Karen Wagner, MS, RD

Looking at the credentials after my name, I am astounded and slightly amused at how many letters I have accumulated, but each of the acronyms does mean something specific and each of them indicates something about my education, training and specialization.  The MS is recognizable to most people. It recognizes my Masters of Science.  Not all dietitians need to be Masters trained, but many are.  For me, my Masters of Science is in Nutrition Education and through it I acquired advanced training in educational theory and ample practice in writing and speaking.

The RD after my name is probably my favorite designation.  To become a Registered Dietitian, an applicant must have a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition, must have completed a rigorous internship and must have passed an exam given by the accreditation agency, the Commission on Dietitian Registration.  To maintain the credential, Registered Dietitians must keep up to date on current literature and practices and attain 75 units of continuing education credits every 5 years in a specific area of study.  Along with completing the requirements, my career as a Registered Dietitian has allowed me to explore the relationship between food and health in many ways.  From helping people through different cancer treatments to advising people on how to navigate a grocery store, having the RD designation has served me well and allowed me to help others too.

Sometimes people ask whether I am a dietitian or a nutritionist, or what I would rather be called.  In truth, I am both; the LDN at the very end of the name indicates that I am licensed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing as a Licensed Dietitian-Nutritionist.  The requirements for the LDN are very similar for those of the RD and I am happy to work in a state that has some regulations on who can use the label of nutritionist.  Honestly, I am fine with my patients calling me either one.  Most people have more pressing concerns than what my title is, but for myself, I do think of myself as a dietitian.

Being a Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition, a CSO, designates my advanced practice with patients who have cancer.  The same agency that accredits Registered Dietitians allows 5 Specialty Certifications, a CSO being one of them.  The CSO indicates that over the last 2 years, I have a spent at least half of my time working with patients with cancer.  In my case, I have spent almost all of my professional time over the past 8 years working with people who have been diagnosed with cancer.  The CSO also means that I passed an advanced practice test specific to oncology nutrition.

So although my credentials are almost as long as my name, I am proud of what they mean and of the journey that I have taken to acquire them.

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