Our professional organization, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, recently changed its name from the American Dietetic Association. I was among many who were not in favor of this name change. At the very least I would have preferred that American be used as part of the name. The dietetics profession is worldwide and the new name does not reflect the US. But, the name was changed and we moved forward.
Now another new change has occurred. The Commission on Dietetic Registration has approved optional credentials. Any person who has completed the requirements noted above can now choose to use the credential RD (registered dietitian) or the newer credential RDN (registered dietitian nutritionist). This option is offered to reflect the change in the Academy's name and to demonstrate to the public the wide breath of services and knowledge our profession can offer. The RD and RDN credential have identical meanings and legal trademark definitions, but the practitioner must select only one designation to use. All of this makes sense, except for years our organization has attempted to show a distinction between registered dietitians and nutritionists. Why you wonder?
Dietitian is a legally defined term and you cannot use this designation unless you have completed approved academic learning and clinical experience. Nutritionist has no such foundation. In fact, anyone can use this title if they wish, but this group may not use the new RDN credential. As the president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics said, "All registered dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians." I completely understand that statement as does every other dietitian. But, I doubt seriously if the general public gets this nuanced distinction. The public will be left to sort out the credibility of the practitioner they are using.
I have spent a great deal of my professional life writing - food and nutrition columns for online newsletters and print magazines, along with over 30 books for consumers and college textbooks. I have also spent most of my professional life explaining my RD credential to publishers, editors, copyeditors, fact-checkers and even readers. Granted more and more of the public do recognize the RD credential but there is still a very large portion of the public that does not. Providing two optional credentials for the same profession, I believe, introduces a new layer of confusion to the public.
As someone who sat for the first RD exam ever administered and who distinctly remembers sitting on the curb outside of Columbia University, exhausted, I understand the amount of work that goes into achieving this credential. I also sit on the board of a college dietetics program and I see what the instructors must deal with to maintain their program's accreditation and how hard the students work to complete their course of study. It has been a long, hard struggle to achieve the recognition our profession deserves and to get both state and federal legislators to recognize RDs as the prime providers of nutrition services for Medicare beneficiaries and for private insurance plans.
Will the new optional credential - RD or RDN - hurt or strengthen our position in the health care arena, especially in light of the many health care changes about to occur in this country? Only time will tell. What's that old saying? - "Nothing is more constant than change." Maybe I'm simply a dinosaur who isn't happy with change. In the meantime I will stick with my current RD credential and watch and wait to see what others decide to do.
© NRH Nutrition Consultants, Inc.
The Most Complete Food Counter, 3rd ed., 2013
The Calorie Counter, 6th Ed., 2013
The Complete Food Counter, 4th ed., 2012
The Diabetes Counter, 4th Ed., 2011
The Protein Counter, 3rd Ed., 2011
The Ultimate Carbohydrate Counter, 3rd Ed., 2010
The Fat Counter, 7th ed., 2009
The Healthy Wholefoods Counter, 2008
The Cholesterol Counter, 7th Ed., 2008
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For more information on Jo-Ann and her books, go to: www.TheNutritionExperts.com.
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