What is the difference between a Dietitian, nutritionist or nutritional therapist, and how to find a qualified registered Dietitian or regulated nutrition expert
Whilst the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI) recognises the choice of the consumer and patients to use complementary or alternative therapies, a key role of the INDI is to ensure that the public are protected from unregulated or inappropriate advice on nutrition. This leaflet informs the public on how to select or check the credentials of any nutrition advisors or practitioners, and to provide information on how to find a qualified Dietitian. The key differences between the roles and functions of Dietitians (clinical nutritionists), nutritionists and nutritional therapists are outlined.
Many people claim to be experts in nutrition yet have very limited knowledge and do not offer protection to the public. Choosing the right person from whom to seek help and advice can sometimes be a confusing task. This is not helped by an increasing number of self- proclaimed or alternative ‘nutrition practitioners’ emerging from informal courses. Such courses are not recognised by the State or by Irish Universities.
Unfortunately, for those who use the services of these unqualified ‘nutrition practitioners’, the advice or therapy provided may be ineffective, inappropriate and potentially unsafe.
What is a Dietitian?
A Dietitian is a health professional who has a Bachelor’s degree specialising in foods and nutrition, as well as a period of practical training in a hospital and a community setting. It takes at least four years of full-time study at a university to qualify as a Dietitian. Many Dietitians further their knowledge by pursuing a master’s or Doctoral degree. Dietitians apply the science of nutrition to promote health, treat and prevent malnutrition and provide therapeutic dietary guidelines for patients, clients and the public in health and illness.
The title “Registered Dietitian” and “Dietitian” will be protected by law so that only qualified practitioners who have met the required education qualifications and continue to maintain their knowledge and skills through continuing professional development, can use that title. CORU is responsible for regulation of health and social care professions under the Health and Social Care Professional’s Act, 2005, in Ireland. Dietitians have public protection as their mandate. Dietitians are held accountable for their conduct and the care they provide both through the regulation process and also through membership of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI). All members of The INDI are bound to comply with the code of ethics and professional practice
The term Nutritionist is not protected by law so people with different levels of training and knowledge can call themselves a “Nutritionist”.
|Nutritionist or Public Health Nutritionist||
How to find a Qualified Dietitian/clinical nutritionist or regulated Nutrition Expert
Outside of the state regulation of Dietitians, nutrition advice is largely a self-regulated industry where anyone can set up and practice without a recognised or regulated qualification, meaning there is no real protection for consumers or patients.
When looking for nutritional advice in relation to your health, it is advisable to ask the practitioner about their background and qualifications to ensure they are appropriately qualified and regulated. You can find a qualified Dietitian by:
• contacting your local hospital, GP surgery or Primary Care Centre
• searching under the Find A Dietitian section on www.indi.ie
The INDI is the professional organisation that represents over 600 Dietitians across Ireland. INDI sets national standards for undergraduate dietetic programs, dietetic placements, and graduate degree practicum programs. www.indi.ie. For more information on the regulation of health care professionals in Ireland see www.coru.ie.