Feature Article: Interprofessional Education (IPE) in Nutrition and Dietetics
  • The educational preparation of future registered dietitian nutritionists includes a requirement to develop the knowledge and skills needed to work with other health professionals. These educational requirements go back to the 1980s with the expectations that students be prepared to work as members of the health care team. This language shifted in the 2002 Standards to requirements that students be prepared to conduct nutrition care as part of interdisciplinary teams. When the Institutes of Medicine began the use of the term “interprofessional” rather than an interdisciplinary a few years ago and published its report on Core Competencies for Interprofessional Collaborative Practice, the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) adopted this terminology as well. The recently released 2017 Accreditation Standards for programs in nutrition and dietetics, for example, requires that students be prepared to function as members of interprofessional teams.
    The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has been actively engaged with the IOM on the topic of IPE since the inception of the IOM Global Forum on Innovation in Health Professional Education, a group created to promote IPE discussion among health professions. Two national entities that have been very involved in the promotion of IPE are the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) and the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education. ACEND and the Academy have been involved with both organizations. IPEC (https://ipecollaborative.org) was formed in 2009 by a shared interest collaborative of members of six groups (medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, public health and osteopathy). The Academy became an IPEC member in 2016 and has been actively engaged with the other IPEC members in strengthening interprofessional education and practice.
    It is the position of the Academy that RDNs should play a significant role in educating medical students, residents, fellows and physicians in practice. According to the Academy’s position paper Interprofessional Education in Nutrition as an Essential Component of Medical Education, “the more physicians learn about the effectiveness of nutrition for the prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases, the more likely they are to consult with RDNs and refer patients for medical nutrition therapy.” In addition, the paper goes on to state: “The more interprofessional education that occurs between medical students, other health professional students and RDNs, the more likely all health care professionals will understand and value the role of the RDN in improving the quality of care provided to patients. The training and experience of the RDN nutrition professional makes them uniquely qualified for the role of educating medical students about nutrition as it relates to health and disease.”
    Another organization supporting IPE in the U.S. is the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education (https://nexusipe.org), a publicly/privately funded entity housed at the University of Minnesota whose goals are to provide leadership, evidence and resources needed to guide the use of interprofessional education and collaborative practice. The center conducts workshops and has a variety of online materials to assist faculty in its IPE work.  
    There is still much nutrition and dietetics practitioners can do to become more recognized for their role in IPE. The Academy is committed to assuring that future practitioners are prepared to be skilled members of interprofessional teams and believes that RDN educators play a vital role in advocating for inclusion of nutrition and dietetics students in IPE on their campuses.
    Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics