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A day in the life of a call centre dietitian: 4 key skills for success

A dietitian from EatRight Ontario provides insight into her varied and dynamic role and shares key skills needed to succeed.

SEHS.jpgSandra Edwards has been a part-time call centre dietitian with EatRight Ontario for over six years. She also runs her own nutrition consulting practice in Markham, ON. Sandra loves working remotely from the comfort of her home office to assist Ontarians in improving their health through better eating habits. You can reach Sandra at or call the EatRight Ontario service at 1-877-510-510-2.


Working as an EatRight Ontario (ERO) dietitian is quite different from other RD roles. First off, I have the privilege of working remotely (from a home office). This means that I do not have to deal with the background noise that a busy call centre or telemarketing environment might have. I also use a wireless headset, keyboard and mouse, which gives me the flexibility to move around. I need to remind myself to do this constantly. Plus, I’m able to wear whatever I want and still speak professionally to a caller from anywhere in Ontario! I love it when a caller asks me where I am and I politely tell them I’m in a satellite office north of Toronto. They are so pleased to hear I am actually in Ontario.


So what must call centre dietitians excel at to succeed in this role?
  1. Multitasking
It amazes me how much we can accomplish as a team. We are always busy either answering a call, crafting a response, conducting research, collecting information, or sending out resources.
On top of this, in between calls, we are usually preparing an email response to a question posed by an Ontarian on our website through the “Email a Dietitian” link. We also might be doing a multitask.jpgreview of a resource, working on a project or supporting a team member who had a tough call or email to respond to.

In addition, at the beginning of each day, we check if new resources or information have been added to our system since our last shift – including updated resources in Practice-Based Evidence in Nutrition (PEN). We use a flagging system to ensure that we are always up-to-date. We also monitor hot topics and safety alerts. Lastly, we offer first-line support for the Nutri-eSTEP and Fresh from the Farm programs, School Food and Beverage Policy, My CancerIQ prevention site, Diabetes strategy, and many other programs.
  1. Interpreting the evidence
One of the challenges we thrive on is ensuring that we are providing consistent, evidence-based information to the same caller question. Our call centre database is based on PEN, combined with an Ontario flare.
We have developed call-centre friendly resources based on evidence in PEN, but they are geared more specifically to the needs of our callers. This helps us find information quickly and communicate it to our caller effectively. We have become very familiar with all PEN client resources as they are frequently used to assist callers and RDs.
We often get challenging questions that force us to dig deep! The beauty of this is that we have easy access to a wealth of information in PEN. But we need to ensure that we read into the available evidence beyond the key practice questions. For some questions, there simply isn’t evidence available so that enables us to identify gaps for new content development.

We also frequently refer callers who need more specialized help (which goes beyond our mandate) to community services, diabetes education centres, and private practice RDs.

We work closely with the PEN team and the HealthLinkBC dietitians in sharing newly developed resources and reviews. Being involved in this process and network provides us the luxury of knowing exactly when a new resource is available.
  1. Communicating effectively with varied populations  
ERO gets callers from a huge age range, from 13 years old to well over 90! This requires us to have effective communication skills with a variety of populations. Our callers are extremely satisfied. Almost 100% of callers say that they would recommend the service to someone else.
Here are some recent (approximate) stats based on 2014-2015:
  • 62% of our callers are first time callers
  • 90% of calls are from the public and 10% from health intermediaries
  • 80% of callers are female
  • 55% of our callers are over the age of 51
  • 15% of calls result in referrals to community services, private practice RDs and diabetes education programs

What do we get calls about?
  • 10% on food safety, purchase, and preparation
  • 7% cardiovascular disease prevention
  • 10% digestive issues
  • 10% weight loss
  • 20% healthy eating or meal planning (this includes calls for infant and toddler feeding)
  • 10%  diabetes or diabetes prevention
  1. Cheerleading, motivating, interviewing, listening, and empathizing
We support our callers using motivational interviewing techniques and goal setting. Assisting callers with such diverse needs has honed our skills in this area. We call these our MOP skills – which stands for “motivating over the phone" – an in-house created term.

We have a MOP team of RDs who support the contact centre RDs with monthly tips and encouragement to support our callers through behaviour changes. We have developed MOP tools to enable us to better support our callers and empower them to make changes.


We are here to support the public in Ontario in making dietary changes that improve their health. We thrive on assisting all callers with trusted nutrition information.

Our service is available to practitioners, as well as the general public.  Have you ever tried calling ERO with your nutrition questions? For example, you could call to discuss the latest evidence on the use of herbs or natural health products. Or, maybe you need a client handout on a topic that you don’t have on hand. We can help with that too! We are here to support all health professionals in Ontario.

If you haven’t already done so, please visit us at or call us at 1-877-510-510-2. While checking out our website, make sure you sign up for our health intermediary or consumer e-newsletter. Being a subscriber means that you get timely updates with links to new articles and resources.

I invite your comments on your experiences connecting with EatRight Ontario.

Have you made the call?

Editor’s Note:  Call centres provide improved access to dietitians and ensure that consumers receive evidence-based information. When I practiced in BC, the call centre there was a great resource when I had a question or a scenario that I wanted to run by another RD.

Increased access to dietitian services is one of the two priorities Dietitians of Canada has identified for the upcoming Federal Election.  Specifically, DC has asked Federal Political party leaders to commit to implementing a pan-Canadian telehealth strategy developed in collaboration with provinces to help more Canadians access dietitian services. Learn more about DC's election priorities and how you can get involved. 

For a list of current provincial call centres click here.

Please leave comments, your past call centre experiences, or questions for Sandra below.
  1. Great summary, Sandra. You've really captured the huge breadth of activities that an EatRight Ontario dietitian is involved with. Teledietetics is not an easy thing and you are simply amazing at what you do. I'd encourage readers to call just to get a feel for the experience!

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