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Preparedness for advancing future health: a national qualitative exploration of dietetics graduates’ experiences

Abstract

Effective health workforce preparation is critical to the health of those who stand to benefit from its services. Emerging dietitians can provide important insights on an evolving workforce that is well-placed to advance future global health. This study aimed to explore a national sample of dietetics graduates’ experiences of, and challenges faced in, dietetics workforce preparation and preparedness in Australia. An interpretive description methodology guided this study whereby researchers interpreted the meanings that participants attributed to their experiences. Twenty dietitians (graduated within the last 2 years) were purposively sampled from across Australia and detailed insights were obtained through semi-structured interviews. A multi-analyst approach employing thematic and template analysis, enabled five themes to be identified across the data set. These included: (1) being held back; (2) chasing the prize; (3) valuing real learning; (4) easing the transition; and (5) encountering influencers. While graduates appreciated their preparation, they were not empowered or equipped to embrace opportunities in diverse and emerging areas of dietetics practice. Graduates were challenged by the competitive landscape of securing obvious job opportunities and by a lack of support in transitioning into the workforce. Practice exposures and encounters with influential dietitians were highly valued. Research on role-emerging dietetics placements along with enhanced support mechanisms for novice dietitians is urgently required to ensure appropriate alignment between future dietetics preparation and practice. Obtaining insights into health professional graduates’ experiences of their education can be used to ensure that emerging health workforces are relevant and responsive to future market needs.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank the twenty dietetics graduates who participated in this study and shared their experiences of dietetics workforce preparation and preparedness.

Funding

This research was supported in part, by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship. The funding body had no involvement in this study.

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Correspondence to Kate Morgan.

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Morgan, K., Campbell, K.L., Sargeant, S. et al. Preparedness for advancing future health: a national qualitative exploration of dietetics graduates’ experiences. Adv in Health Sci Educ 25, 31–53 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10459-019-09904-6

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Keywords

  • Dietetics education
  • Educators
  • Graduates
  • Preparedness for practice
  • Qualitative research
  • Students
  • Workforce