In recent years, dietetics has evolved into a well-respected profession with examples of advanced practice, a thriving research culture and a growing evidence base. The 2018 ‘Future Dietitian’ project showed that ~9000 dietitians work in the UK, with ~70% employed by the NHS, and 30% working in other sectors including public health, food service, education and industry (Hickson and Collinson, 2018).
The British Dietetic Association (BDA) has highlighted the need for increased diversity in dietetics, and developing the landscape is key. By increasing visibility, and broadening career prospects, the profession is likely to diversify. This includes providing placement experience for emerging practitioners out with traditional settings to illustrate and prepare #RD2Bs for a range of opportunities.
A recent systematic review from the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics (Morgan, 2018), explored the views of 120 dietetic students from five qualitative studies. The paper highlights the journey of dietetic students and the inspiration derived from experiential learning across different settings. It echoes the need for the profession to be ‘bold, brave and innovative’ moving forward (Hickson and Collinson, 2017).
The review raises important issues: There was a perceived pressure on dietetic students to be ‘perfect’, that was not limited to knowledge and skills, but, for example, participants felt they should be an ideal weight to make their advice ‘more credible’. These misplaced ideals are likely to be true of other health professionals too; that physiotherapists should be sporty, or that psychologists should have it all figured out!
The ‘hidden curriculum’, or the mirroring of the values and behaviours of practice educators, is powerful, and has the potential to exert a lasting impact on students, influencing their behaviour as graduates. Creating a culture of critical thinking, research, leadership, and visibility will ensure we have diversity in roles.
I had the pleasure of interviewing for graduate band 5 posts last week, and when asking about recent development activity, was inspired by the diversity of answers. From tuning in to webinars on COVID-19 to improve work-readiness, and volunteering at food banks to reduce the hunger gap, to listening to mindful eating podcasts to promote holistic practice.
By ensuring diverse placement experiences, as well as opportunities throughout the dietetic career pathway, we can promote future growth and avoid homogeneity in dietetics.
Anna Julian, Advanced Practitioner, Adult Acute Dietetic Services, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
#RDJC journal club for dietitians and registered nutritionists: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1947271008868892/
Hickson, M., Child, J. and Collinson, A., 2018. Future Dietitian 2025: informing the development of a workforce strategy for dietetics. JHND, 31(1), pp.23-32.
Morgan, K., Campbell, K.L. and Reidlinger, D.P., 2019. Dietetics students’ experiences of dietetics workforce preparation and preparedness: a systematic review and qualitative synthesis. JHND, 32(2), pp.226-246.