Logan's Nutrition & Human Performance program accepted into early adopter demonstration

Logan University’s Master of Science Degree in Nutrition & Human Performance was recently accepted into an early adopter demonstration program through the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).

In 2012, ACEND began discussions on future education needs and the potential of developing degree-based standards. At the same time, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Council on Future Practice released a document recommending that educational preparation for dietitians be elevated to a graduate level to provide a greater depth of knowledge and skills needed for future practice in the profession.

Currently, individuals seeking careers as nutrition and dietetics technicians earn associate degrees while dietitian nutritionists earn bachelor degrees, combined with practice experience.

In 2013, ACEND spoke with 9,000 stakeholders, asking what skill sets professionals need, where the jobs are going to be and what work they will be doing. ACEND determined that dietitians need to be better prepared to fill gaps with health research, communication, leadership and cultural competence and to be part of a medical team. They made recommendations for a new model of education that shifts the path of entry-level dietitian nutritionists to the graduate degree level, moving the educational preparation of entry-level nutrition and dietetics technicians to the bachelor’s degree level and creating a new program preparing nutrition health associates at the associate degree level.

“With ACEND’s release of the Rationale for Future Education Preparation of Nutrition and Dietetics Practitioners, it became clear that health care in the U.S. was changing, and we had to change the way we educate practitioners to meet the needs of the future,” said Cheryl Houston, PhD, CHES, CFCS, RD, LD, FAND, program director for the Doctorate of Health Professions Education & General Education and former interim program director for Nutrition & Human Performance.

One of these emerging areas, said Dr. Houston, is integrative health care, which includes areas such as telehealth, nutrigenomics, nutritional pharmacology, health informatics, coding and reimbursement. In addition, there is a growing importance for health care professionals to be able to work more interprofessionally. “Discussions around what a dietitian is going to look like in the future and what is needed in the marketplace began, and the organizations came up with a list of skill areas that dietitians were not prepared to do.”

In 2015, ACEND began a multi-phase process to develop the required competencies of practitioners at each degree level. Development of the Accreditation Standards detailing expectations of programs preparing future practitioners also began. Last year, ACEND released the Future Education Model Accreditation Standards for Associate, Bachelor and Graduate Degree Programs in Nutrition and Dietetics and invited colleges, universities and organizations sponsoring nutrition and dietetics programs to apply to be an early adopter demonstration program.

Logan was among the first of only 19 applications accepted and offers one of seven new dietetics programs. The remaining 12 dietetics programs accepted are undergoing reorganization.

The goal of ACEND’s early adopter demonstration program is to see if different future education models across colleges, universities and organizations are effective in producing the kind of professionals that are prepared for emerging and innovative health care.

ACEND will use data collected from the selected programs to determine what models are viable by 2024. Some schools will incorporate the new standards into their bachelor or associate degree programs, whereas Logan will incorporate the new standards into the current Master’s Degree in Nutrition & Human Performance program.

“They asked if we believed we could meet the new standards for master’s entry-level RDN,” said Dr. Houston. “We believe the intent and direction of the future model they described already exists at Logan University, and we welcome the opportunity to be a part of the future of dietetics education.”

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