Understanding training needs in eating disorders of graduating and new graduate dietitians in Australia: an online survey

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Journal of Eating Disorders


Background: Following recent reforms by the Australian Government to the Medicare Benefits Schedule, people living with a diagnosed eating disorder (ED) in Australia have greater access to dietetic services. However, new graduate dietitians anecdotally lack confidence to provide appropriate interventions to support patients with an ED. Therefore, this cross-sectional study aims to explore the perceived confidence, and educational and professional development needs of student dietitians and new graduate dietitians in the area of EDs. Methods: An online survey with 17 questions was designed, consisting of a combination of discrete (yes/no) questions, free text, ordered scales and 5-point Likert scales. Student dietitians, and first- and second- year graduates (n = 1456) were approached via email as potential participants, from the professional organisation Dietitians Australia member list. Survey data was analysed using descriptive statistics and odds ratios. Results: In total, 150 surveys were completed, with a response rate of 10.3%. Respondents reported a lack of confidence in managing patients with an ED and implementing ED treatment approaches (81 and 95%, respectively). However, participants previously exposed to patients with an ED, such as anorexia nervosa, were 4.7 times (95% CI 1.72, 12.97) more likely to be confident compared to those not exposed to patients with an ED. The majority of respondents (37%) stated they would seek assistance from other dietitians, and develop their skills via online webinars (27%) and workshops (25%). Conclusions: This survey identified that final year dietetics students and new graduate dietitians perceive lower levels of confidence to practice in the area of EDs. The desire for further ED-specific training and education was reported.

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