In late 2015, after an extensive consultation process, the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) released revised National Competency Standards (NCS) for dietitians in Australia.
The NCS is an underpinning document for Australian dietitians, providing a framework for developing and maintaining essential knowledge, skills and attitudes for safe practice of dietitians. The NCS were originally published in 1993, and have been reviewed several times since.
In 2014, an expert working group commenced the latest national review of the standards. To inform the revision, 161 DAA members reviewed the existing standards through a qualitative survey, reporting on any concerns, gaps, and repetition. The members were from a range of different areas of practice, including clinical, community/public health, private practice, food service, food industry, academia, as well as new graduates.
Following on from this, a number of key issues were identified, including the need to:
Enhance the focus on client-centred care and skills for changing dietary behaviour
Update the food service, community and public health competencies
Enhance the professionalism-related competencies
Ensure the competencies were reflective of the changing and modernising health system
Ensure common understanding of the standards for all of the profession
Restructure, simplify, and reduce the size of the standards.
The next phase of the revision involved recruiting academics, recent graduates, and a mix of employers of new graduates to take part in focus groups. These were aimed at identifying the key purpose of the dietetics profession, major work roles, and key tasks. Findings from the focus groups informed the development of an updated version of the key purpose of the profession:
‘Dietitians are food and nutrition professionals who work in a range of areas to promote health, prevent and treat disease and optimise the nutrition of individuals, groups and populations. Using scientific principles, dietitians create and apply nutrition, biological and social science evidence to influence eating behaviours and the wider food environment affecting sustainable and nutritious, food supply, policy and intake.’
The expert working group then agreed on major work roles and categories, and developed these into the typical structure of competency standards. Existing DAA standards statements, Health Workforce Australia capability statements, and newly-developed statements based on data from the focus groups then formed the development of key tasks and activities of dietitians.
Next, a panel of 110 dietetics students and academics were surveyed to reach a consensus on the revised standards. From this, the expert working group finalised the NCS.
The newly-revised NCS are contemporary, and focus on the current and future landscape of the dietetic profession. In contrast to the 2009 standards, the updated NCS more accurately reflect major dietetic work roles, rather than the settings in which dietitians work.
Four major dietetic work roles were identified:
Influencing the health of individuals, groups, communities and populations
Using evidence based nutrition and dietetics practice, and
Working collaboratively in teams.
The revised NCS align more closely with other health professional competency standards, and emphasise the professional qualities needed for dietitians to work across multiple contexts.
This revision is another example of DAA leading the way in nutrition and dietetics, and remaining up-to-date with developments in the increasingly complex health system.
For more information on DAA’s revised NCS, please visit http://daa.asn.au/ncs/ or contact DAA via firstname.lastname@example.org.