Student dietitian’s knowledge and beliefs of eating disorders: A qualitative study
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Background Eating disorders are stigmatized conditions and evidence suggests that stigma and poor knowledge of the condition can affect diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders, resulting in poor health care outcomes. This research aims to explore the knowledge and beliefs that student dietitians may have about eating disorders and to identify gaps of knowledge that may affect future practice. Methods Student dietitians (n=17) completed a self-administered questionnaire. The questionnaire included two vignettes of fictional characters with eating disorders. Participants were required to answer qualitative questions regarding their knowledge and attitudes of the characters. Thematic analysis was done to identify common themes. Results Four main themes were identified. These were personality characteristics, development of eating disorders, professional interaction with eating disorders and role of dietetics in eating disorders. Different beliefs were associated between eating disorders, including differences in factors affecting development, personality traits and motivation. Differences in participant’s perceptions of eating disorders differed regarding the role of dietitian and their confidence level. Discussion Results have suggested that though student dietitians have a good knowledge about factors of eating disorders, participants report they feel unconfident when communicating with eating disorder patients. The finding suggests that there is need for improved eating disorder education within student training and that this may result in improved knowledge and reduction in stigmatizing attitudes.
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