Nutrition and dietetics professionals are recognised experts in human nutrition science and are best placed to improve the nutrition of individuals and populations. Nutrition is a relatively new and poorly understood profession in Ireland. While dietitians are recognised by the government as the registered profession with regulation and registration provided through CORU, registered nutritionists currently have no legal requirement for professional accreditation. This has led to confusion around their level of competence and scope of practice. The scope of practice for nutritionists is generally considered the management of healthy individuals and populations although this has not been defined. Competence refers to the “ability to make effective decisions or perform a skill in a particular setting”. Competency standards for Registered Nutritionists are provided by the Association for Nutrition (AfN) in the UK. They are a voluntary professional body that provides registration through the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN), as well as course accreditation for nutrition programmes.
This project seeks to develop and grow professional competence in nutrition in Ireland, through the implementation of competency-based education in higher education institutions and the creation of a network of nutritionists to highlight issues facing the profession and advocate for the protection of the title. A Community of Practice in Nutrition was established in May 2020 to bring together those with a key stake in nutrition education and employment to develop a network for sharing information and advocating for recognition of the registration process and Association for Nutrition (AfN) accreditation. Education systems with quality teaching and learning are essential to produce a competent workforce. The project also aims to assess how competence in nutrition is conceptualised and develop a framework for the development of competency-based assessment (CBA) in education. Focus groups, surveys, and interviews will be conducted across Ireland and the UK to gather data from educators, students, and employers. This will lead to a framework for CBA which can be rolled out to all Higher Education Institutions delivering nutrition courses. This framework will facilitate the improvement of nutrition programmes and increase the standard of students graduating. The main outcomes expected from this project are a greater awareness of registered nutritionists and their scope of practice in the community, a framework for developing CBA in education, and an increase in qualified nutritionists entering the workforce.
NutriPD is funded by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.
Dr Lisa Ryan
Dr Lisa Ryan is the Head of the Sport, Exercise, and Nutrition Department at Atlantic Technological University (ATU) Galway. Lisa graduated with a first-class honours degree in Nutritional Science and a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from University College Cork (UCC). Following her studies at UCC, Dr Ryan took up a Senior Lecturing post at Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom, before moving on to another Senior Lectureship at Oxford Brookes University in 2008. Lisa has over 15 years of experience working in nutrition education and research, and over 100 publications in the field. She’s a Registered Nutritionist (RNutr), a great advocate for the nutrition profession, and is passionate about progressing the profession in Ireland. Since moving to ATU Galway she has established new programmes in Public Health Nutrition and Sport and Exercise Science including two new undergraduate programmes and three new MSc programmes. Lisa is also a scientific advisor with the Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute and an accreditation assessor with the Association for Nutrition (AfN).
Sarah O’Donovan graduated with an MSc in Human Nutrition in 2019, with a specialisation in Public Health Nutrition, from the University of Glasgow. Sarah is a Registered Associate Nutritionist (ANutr) with the Association for Nutrition (AfN) and has been working since January 2020 as a Research Assistant and Project Manager on the NutriPD project alongside Dr Ryan at ATU Galway.
The main aims of this project are to grow the nutrition profession in Ireland by (i) developing a framework for competency-based assessment development in nutrition education and (ii) creating a Community of Practice to bring together nutritionists in Ireland to advocate for AfN registration and regulation of the profession. Sarah has been chairing the Community of Practice since May 2020 and is passionate about growing the nutrition profession in Ireland and advocating for recognition of the Nutritionist title.