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Recruiting and Preparing the Next Generation of Practitioners

      Starting in 2024, the education requirements to become credentialed as a registered dietitian nutritionist in the United States will include a master’s degree. This decision was made by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, based on the recommendations of the Council on Future Practice’s 2012 Visioning Report:
      The expansion of knowledge and need for both deeper and wider expertise has affected all health care professions in the last decade. Increasing entry-level degree requirements might enable future RDNs to be competitive and respected members of the health care team. In addition, the enhanced preparation for practice leads to better critical thinking and higher quality of care and protection of the public. Virtually all other allied health professions have increased entry-level educational standards beyond the bachelor’s degree to either a master’s degree or practice doctorate.
      Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
      Visioning Report Moving Forward – A Vision for the Continuum of Dietetics Education, Credentialing and Practice.
      And as the Academy’s Coding and Coverage Committee wrote in 2013:
      Education needs to move to a higher degree for entry-level clinical practice. Credentials make a difference for our voice to be heard among organizations such as Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, American Medical Association, and others with a predominant “doctor” culture. … Demands for knowledge and skills in today’s health care environment far exceed those required in the past, and we must expand the current entry-level education preparation model. RDNs need to enter practice with evidence-based skills and with research competency to be able to demonstrate and document outcomes and effectiveness.
      • Kicklighter J.R.
      • Cluskey M.M.
      • Hunter A.M.
      • et al.
      Council on Future Practice Visioning Report and Consensus Agreement for Moving Forward the Continuum of Dietetics Education, Credentialing, and Practice.
      The Academy is committed to helping practitioners make this important transition. “ACEND is working hard to be visionary and nimble as we prepare for the future,” says Rayane AbuSabha, PhD, RD, ACEND’s executive director.
      Let me share with you just a few of ACEND’s recent and current initiatives:
      • Developing advanced- practice doctoral standards. ACEND’s Expanded Standards Committee is developing these standards to encourage elevating the preparation of nutrition and dietetics professionals, especially those who will prepare the next generation of RDNs.
      • ACEND is exploring the Associate degree as a college bridging program. The Board has held discussions on pathways to improve enrollment and increase pathways into the profession.
      • Expanding globally to increase international programs, including possible interest from applicants from many countries in the Caribbean, South America, Africa and the Middle East. Through the generosity of the Foundation, ACEND expects the first program in Africa, at the University of Ghana, to submit an application in 2023.
      • The Board is taking steps this year to protect students enrolled in nutrition and dietetics programs, especially those in practice programs where they have to identify their own preceptors and facilities. We added in the standards the expectation for programs to assist the students or interns to find their sites, when needed.
      • ACEND has been active in the area of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA), using data analytics to determine areas of need and offered webinars to increase awareness of DI programs and support them as they examined their admission practices to ensure they are non-discriminatory and inclusive; as a result, the diversity of interns has increased by over 8% since 2019.
      These initiatives and many others are helping ACEND meet its goals, which include progress to “elevate the quality of nutrition and dietetics education across the globe” and “promote opportunities for diversity and access in dietetics education.” I encourage you to follow ACEND’s successes and initiatives at https://www.eatrightpro.org/acend.

      References

        • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
        Visioning Report Moving Forward – A Vision for the Continuum of Dietetics Education, Credentialing and Practice.
        • Kicklighter J.R.
        • Cluskey M.M.
        • Hunter A.M.
        • et al.
        Council on Future Practice Visioning Report and Consensus Agreement for Moving Forward the Continuum of Dietetics Education, Credentialing, and Practice.
        J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013; 113: 1710-1732