Toward a Global Definition of Professionalism for Nutrition and Dietetics Education: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Janeane Dart, Louise McCall, Susan Ash, Merran Blair, Cliona Twohig, Claire Palermo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Professionalism of health care practitioners is central to safe and ethical health care, and forms part of the trust that the public places in health care practitioners. Lapses in professionalism in health care present considerable challenges and can have serious consequences and outcomes. Teaching, learning, and assessing professionalism is an important component of nutrition and dietetics education. There is scant peer-reviewed published research related to professionalism in nutrition and dietetics. Providing a definition of professionalism will support progress in curriculum planning and design, teaching, learning and assessment of students, and ongoing professional development of educators and practitioners. Objective: The aim of this study was to conceptualize and define professionalism for the purpose of teaching nutrition and dietetics. Design: This study included a critical systematic literature review of original research and a targeted and systematic search of national and international dietetics competency standards, exploring the concept and definitions of professionalism in nutrition and dietetics. Competency standards were chosen as an additional focus in the systematic literature search, as they are the key framework documents that guide curriculum development and education standards internationally. Thematic analysis was used to synthesize extracted data and an inductive, interpretivist approach was then applied in conceptualizing a definition of professionalism. Results: Seven studies and six national and international sets of competency standards were included in the literature review. Four major themes conceptualizing a definition of professionalism for nutrition and dietetics were identified from the integration of the original research and targeted gray literature reviews: 1) personal attributes; 2) interpersonal communication; 3) approach to practice; and 4) commitment to lifelong learning. Conclusions: Defining professionalism for nutrition and dietetics supports progress toward shared understandings, building trust, and assisting in dietetics education and practice. It can be used to support and extend teaching, learning, and assessment of professionalism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)957–971
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


  • Competency
  • Dietetics education
  • Practice
  • Professionalism
  • Systematic review

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