Exploring dietetics workforce preparation and preparedness in Australia.

  • Kate Morgan

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Producing dietitians who are suitably prepared to practice is essential to ensuring the effectiveness of the dietetics profession, and the health of those that the dietetics workforce serves. Given the increasing international burden of diet-related disease and the clear role that nutrition plays in optimising health, the emerging dietetics workforce is ideally-placed to advance future global health. Dietetics workforce preparation and preparedness are inextricably linked phenomena. Existing evidence regarding these phenomena generally focuses on specific aspects and is often limited to single settings. Further, the overall experiences and challenges faced by key stakeholders embedded in these phenomena have been largely unexplored. This lack of scholarship limits dietetics workforce planning and development efforts. This thesis aimed to address this by exploring dietetics workforce preparation and preparedness in Australia.
Multiple approaches were taken in this thesis to review and generate evidence relevant to the phenomena of interest. A systematic mapping review documented existing dietetics education research conducted in Australia and informed the development and implementation of subsequent studies (Chapter 2). A national, cross-sectional survey enumerated and profiled the professional attributes of the academic dietetics educator workforce in Australia (Chapter 4). Following this, a series of three qualitative studies explored the experiences of, and challenges faced by, key stakeholders from across Australia including academic dietetics educators (Chapter 5), dietetics practice educators (Chapter 6) and recent dietetics graduates (Chapter 7). In-depth, semi-structured interviews obtained richly-detailed insights from these key stakeholders and thematic analysis incorporating multiple researcher perspectives was employed to develop themes across the data sets. Finally, a systematic review and qualitative synthesis of dietetics students’ experiences of workforce preparation and preparedness was conducted to add depth and comprehensiveness to the key stakeholder perspectives already provided (Chapter 8).
While each study in this thesis generated results and revealed insights into dietetics workforce preparation and preparedness, the key findings synthesized from across all studies included that: there is a significant lack of data on the emerging (and existing) dietetics workforce in Australia; key stakeholders involved in dietetics workforce preparation and preparedness in Australia are motivated by altruistic intentions and a desire to do ‘good’ work; there is a misalignment between what dietetics graduates in Australia are being prepared for and what they need to be prepared for; the systems in which Australian dietetics workforce preparation stakeholders operate, constrain and impact their ability to optimally perform their roles; key stakeholders involved in dietetics workforce preparation and preparedness in Australia value support that enables them to fulfil their aspirations and do quality work; and a lack of collaboration and collegiality exists within the profession.
This thesis has produced a body of nationally-relevant evidence around dietetics workforce preparation and preparedness in Australia and provides impetus for conducting similar research in other countries and other health professions. It has revealed that key stakeholders embedded in the phenomena face numerous challenges which are exacerbated by a lack of robust workforce data. Strategies that ensure dietetics workforce preparation is well-aligned with contemporary and future practice needs are required. Mechanisms that harness the collective motivation of, provide support for, and incentivize collaboration between, all key stakeholders in dietetics workforce preparation are needed for the benefit of emerging workforce and the entire profession. Further, a strategic and coordinated approach to collecting and disseminating data on the dietetics workforce is essential to inform dietetics workforce planning and to ensuring that the dietetics workforce of the future is relevant and responsive.
Date of Award15 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDianne Reidlinger (Supervisor), Katrina Louise Campbell (Supervisor), Sally Sargeant (Supervisor) & Linda Crane (Supervisor)

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