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Dietetic scope of practice



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Scope of practice is seen as the base from which governing bodies prepare standards of practice, educational institutions organize curricula and employers prepare job descriptions. The meaning of scope of practice varies among and within healthcare professions. The purpose of this study was to explore the concept of scope of practice for dietetics in Saskatchewan and Canada. Little is known about dietetic scope of practice in Canada and literature has not shown a consistent use of the term. Saskatchewan is one of two provincial dietetic regulatory bodies without a scope of practice in legislation. Implications for having an undefined scope of practice include role confusion, competition among providers, diminishing professional identity and under- or over-utilization of health professionals. Using interpretative description methodology, data was collected through four phases. In Phase I, eight provincial dietetic regulatory bodies participated in semi structured telephone interviews on scope of practice. Phase II used an online survey on 92 Saskatchewan dietitians to examine dietetic scope of practice. A follow up online focus group was conducted with ten Saskatchewan dietitians in Phase III to further explore dietetic scope of practice. Phase IV related dietetic scope of practice statements found across Canada to literature and data collected in Phases I-III. Themes were defined as a topic identified by participants in more than one phase. Data from all phases were coded using NVivo 9.0. Results indicate that dietetic scope of practice statements are a product of a complex multi-player, political process. Without a scope of practice, Saskatchewan dietitian participants were interpreting their role from a combination of documents (e.g. ethics, research) and stakeholders (e.g. employers and colleagues). Participants believed a dietetic scope of practice should provide guidance to dietitians, employers, health professionals, the public, regulatory bodies, and other stakeholders. Challenges defining, understanding and working with a scope of practice include encompassing the diversity of dietetics in a concise statement, and working with stakeholders who have a poor understanding of the dietetic profession. Our research also revealed variation in dietetic scopes of practice across Canada. A scope of practice cycle was proposed which included four phases: no scope of practice, creating a scope of practice, using a scope of practice and evaluating and updating a scope of practice. Factors influencing a scope of practice, such as the political environment, education of professionals and employer policies all impact this scope of practice cycle. Perceived outcomes of a scope of practice include guidance, credibility, advanced practice and practice protection.



Scope of Practice, Dietitian, Professional Practice, dietetics, education, professional standards



Master of Science (M.Sc.)






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