The contested space: The impact of competency-based education and accreditation on dietetic practice in Australia

Susan Ash, Claire Palermo, Danielle Gallegos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: Competency-based Education (CBE) has underpinned the education of dietitians in Australia since the first Competency Standards (CS) were published; however, little is known about how CBE has influenced dietetic practice. The aim of this paper is to explore how a CBE framework and the CS have influenced dietetic practice in Australia since 1990. Methods: A qualitative investigation explored concepts of dietetic practice. Data analysed were original interviews previously undertaken with recent graduate dietitians during 1991 (n = 26), 1998 (n = 23) and 2007 (n = 19) and seven guided discussions with dietitians and employers (n = 28) conducted in 2014 to identify themes. The DAA Competency Standards and Accreditation Manuals/Standards since 1990 were also analysed to triangulate the interview data and to investigate how the CS were interpreted. Results and Conclusions: Themes identified from interviews included: (i) communicating for better care, (ii) scientific enquiry for effective practice, (iii) critical thinking and evidence-based practice and (iv) professionalism, which remained core to dietetic practice over time, but leadership, advocacy, business management and entrepreneurial skills have emerged more strongly as the scope of practice has diversified. The landscape in which dietitians' practice showed increasing complexity and clear boundaries separating professional roles were disappearing. The 2015 CS and the 2017 Accreditation Standards highlighted that competency remains a shifting construct and that professional behaviours change depending on economic and political reasons in the play of power. Accreditation policy and current standards have successfully maintained a standard of dietetic practice across a diverse country but have the potential to constrain innovation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-46
Number of pages9
JournalNutrition and Dietetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • accreditation
  • competency standards
  • competency-based education
  • dietetics
  • professional competence
  • qualitative evaluation

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