Aim: The present study aimed to describe the characteristics of a Fellow and critically review factors relevant to recognition and promotion of excellence within the profession of dietetics in Australia. Methods: Through the development of revised Competency Standards for the Fellow credential, a critical qualitative approach drawing on action research was used whereby members of the profession were given a voice in the research process. Six focus groups with a total of 30 participants explored descriptions of expertise and perceptions of Fellow by the profession and determinants of uptake. Focus groups were conducted during February and March 2018. Data were examined using a thematic analysis approach, with additional meaning explored through cultural historical activity theory. Participants/setting - A purposive sample of Australian dietitians. Results: Fellows embodied leadership, impact, influence, innovation and inspiration, internal and external to the profession and this was reflected in the revised Competency Standards. Potential Fellows perceived they were not capable of achieving the standard required. A lack of recognition of the credential both from within the community of dietetics, and externally, was identified. The role of the social system in which these credentials operate including the role of the professional association in awarding the credential are relevant. Conclusions: Changes to the standards, and the system, may improve perceptions and uptake of the credential. This example provides highly relevant insights for the profession internationally.
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