A qualitative investigation into public perceptions, expectations and preferences regarding the role of Dietitians
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Background: There is currently limited qualitative research into the public’s perceptions and expectations of the dietetic role. Much of the background research observed self-perception of healthcare roles, where insight into public perceptions and expectations is not observed, or has studied specific population samples rather than the general public. The aim is gain insight into the public’s perceptions, expectations and preferences regarding the role of dietitians. Methods: Cross-sectional design using researcher-administered questionnaires to gather qualitative data and gain insight into current public perceptions, expectations and preferences regarding the role of dietitians. Results: There was a clear split on the public’s knowledge of the role of dietitians, with 48% understanding that the role involves advising on diet generally, and 44% mentioning its association with health issues and illness. Participants primarily cited overweight, obese or fat as people they would expect to be referred to see a dietitian (60%), compared to very few participants citing the need for building up or MUST score (8%). Also, when asked about what they would expect to be discussed during a consultation, only 8% mentioned patients own attitudes or goals. Results showed an expectation of seeing dietitians in a hospital environment (84%), however, the most popular place for the public to consult with a dietitian was a GP or health centre (42%). There was a clear preference seen for individual consultation (78%); mainly attributed to social discomfort (50%) and desire for individuality or one-to-one contact (45%). All participants expected that they would feel comfortable talking about what they usually eat and drink with a dietitian, with 78% reasoning the theme of it not being an issue for them. Conclusions: There is an expectation that dietitians mainly work in a hospital environment, and that dietitians primarily address weight management in their role. Results also suggest that there is a lack of knowledge surrounding the broad dietetic role in nutrition support, as well as the patient-centred natural of the role. The public preference is to have a consultation in their GP practise or health centre rather than in the hospital environment, despite the expectation of seeing them in hospital. Public prefer individual consultation. Information-giving by the referrer on group consultations may change attitudes towards these.
BSc (Hons) Human Nuturition and Dietetics (Sandwich)
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