Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Parham, Ellen S.

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Human and Family Resources


Dietitians--Psychology; Diet therapy--Psychological aspects


The health care system in America has been going- through a period of many changes. Rising hospitalization costs have forced health care professionals to care for patients in alternative settings. Ambulatory care centers, extended care facilities, one-day surgery centers, health maintenance organizations and preferred provider organizations are being established throughout the country as alternate methods of health care. These and other substantial changes in the health-care system will undoubtedly have an effect on the profession of dietetics. A challenge facing the profession will be to redefine traditional roles and delineate new roles to be consistent with changes occurring in the health-care system. This study was conducted during the summer of 1987 and was designed to determine if there is a general consensus among clinical dietetic practitioners regarding current role functions, future roles and professional image of the clinical dietitian. A survey questionnaire was mailed to 700 clinical dietetic practitioners selected through a systematic random sample of dietitians in the practice area of clinical dietetics. Questionnaires were returned by 440 (63%) dietitians; however, results are based upon the responses of 428 participants, as 12 questionnaires were incomplete and did not qualify for inclusion in the study. The majority of the respondents were 22-34 years old, employed full-time by a hospital and had been in dietetic practice for 1 to 15 years. There was general consensus on all current role functions except those involving marking and evaluating patient menus. Consensus was lacking on whether or not dietitians, rather than doctors, should prescribe diet therapy. When asked about future roles, 90% of the respondents felt there would be an increase in the number of dietitians working in specialty areas and that employment in acute care institutions would continue. Nutritional services for the elderly, health promotion and disease prevention were areas of practice identified as most likely to expand. In response to statements on professional image, 60% of the respondents felt the clinical dietitian had a positive image in the medical community, but that the professional activities and responsibilities were not understood by other health-care professionals. An even greater number of dietitians (73%) felt their professional responsibilities and activities were not understood by the general public. Differences in opinion among hospital and non-hospital dietitians and among dietitians with differing years of experience in dietetic practice are presented and discussed.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [61]-62)


v, 94 pages (some folded)




Northern Illinois University

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