Report on the second and third cycle training opportunities for dietitians with a bachelor’s degree and changes in the continuing professional educational system in Hungary
  • Country – Hungary
    The highest qualified professionals of diet therapy are the dietitians in Hungary. Dietetics at Bachelor’s level has existed from 1975 in Budapest and from 1990 in Pecs. The education lasted for 3 years at the beginning, but it has now grown to 4 years. Recently (since 2009 in Debrecen and Budapest, and since 2011 in Pecs) it became possible to get a masters degree in the field of nutritional sciences as well, but in quite a unique way.  The masters program for dietetics has been titled as Nutrition MSc. This means that health professionals still need a Dietetics BSc, and the masters program focuses mainly on scientific competencies instead of specialized dietetic competencies. Since 2006 it is also possible to get a PhD for health professionals because two universities (Pecs and Budapest) have launched a Doctoral School for Health Sciences.  Many of the dietitian students have already defended their theses and received their PhD in Nutrition Science.
    Another recent change is the continuing professional educational system for health professionals (including dietitians). Since 2009 registration is controlled by the Office of Health Authorisation and Administrative Procedures (EEKH). The criterion for registration is bachelor’s degree accepted by the Hungarian government.  There is no need of an exam to become a registered dietitian in Hungary, although the candidate has to be a member of the Hungarian Chamber of Health Professionals and the diploma cannot be older than 8 years. The Department of Registration keeps the Basic Register of healthcare experts, and keeps up the Operational Registry of paramedicals, physicians, dentists, pharmacists and clinical psychologists. Registering a candidate in the basic registration is automatic after acquiring any healthcare qualification.  The goal of the basic registration is to testify the authenticity of the acquired qualification. One of the requirements to practice any healthcare activity independently is to be registered in the Operational Registry. Registration happens by request of the healthcare expert.  The period of the registration is five years, which can be renewed. A registered dietitian has to collect credit points: 150 in 5 years. These credits are recorded by the National Institute for Quality and Organizational Development in Healthcare and Medicines, Directorate General of Basic and Continuing Education of Health Workers (GYEMSZI ETI). Besides that, they perform organisational, methodological and pedagogical tasks connected to vocational training and examination, adult education activity, organise healthcare vocational training outside the school system along with examinations, organise and conduct continuing education.
    The new legislation according to the continuing professional education for dietitians came into force in 2012. There are three types of education: compulsory theoretical courses specially held for dietitians, elective theoretical courses and practice. The compulsory theoretical courses are accredited centrally and are organized by the Higher Education Institutes in collaboration with the governmental Directorate. These courses can be fulfilled with an exam at the end of the course. One compulsory course is for free in every period, though the employer could take over the charges of any other course the employee attends. The elective courses are also accredited by the professional body, but they are organized within the workplaces regulary. These credits can also be obtained with attendence at national and international conferences, with scientific work published in peer reviewed journals or with any other qualifications above the bachelors level (another bachelors in the field of health sciences, a masters or a PhD degree). It is also accepted if the registered dietitian is teaching or supervising students in related disciplines. For completing the practical requirements and remain competent, the registered dietitians have to work at least 3 years out of 5 within the profession (clinical, administrative or public health dietetics).  Both national and foreign working environments are accepted. One year is worth 20 credits in a fulltime job; if somebody does not collect 60 credits with work, she can collect 20 credits per month under supervised practice.
    The new training opportunities and the quality assurance in the continuing professional education hopefully will create an adequate and motivating environment for dietitians in Hungary for lifelong learning.
    Simon Armbruszt, Assistant lecturer, University of Pecs, Faculty of Health Sciences, Department of Nutritional Sciences and Dietetics, Member of the Hungarian Dietetic Association (MDOSZ)
    Jolan Kubanyi, President of the Hungarian Dietetic Association