Topical Area: Education and Training
Objectives : The popularity & use of Complementary & Alternative Medicine (CAM) practices has grown exponentially in the United States. The purpose of this study was to conduct a comprehensive assessment of RDs perspectives & practices on CAM.
Methods : A 36-item electronic survey was sent to all active & practicing members of a Midwestern state affiliate of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (n=985) to assess their training & practice on CAM. The survey was tested for face, content, & construct validity. Internal reliability analysis tests were conducted with the final sample of respondents.
Three hundred & sixty-two RDs completed the survey. Majority were White (80%), females (95%), employed full time (65%), master’s degree holders (58%), worked in community/clinical settings or private practice (54%), & reported no formal training on CAM (81%). Among those who received formal training on CAM, 54% mentioned undergraduate classes & continuing education as the major training sources. However, majority of the RDs (88%) reported informal training & their leading sources (making a total of 63%) for CAM information were scientific journals & books, peers & coworkers, internet & diet related websites. Level of knowledge, training, & counseling ability on three major components of CAM (i.e. supplements, functional foods, herbs & spices) were assessed & the vast majority ( >75%) of the RDs rated their knowledge as “low”, training as “minimal”, & confidence in counseling clients on the three CAM components as “somewhat or not confident”. Regression analyses revealed that formal training was associated with greater knowledge & confidence in counseling on CAM. Despite the lack of training & confidence, the majority ( >50%) of RDs advised a client to use CAM more than once in the last 6 months. Majority of the RDs (60%) identified dietitians & physicians as preferred instructors for CAM related training.
The results of this study suggest that RDs need more formal training, education & experience with CAM if they are to effectively counsel clients. Professional organizations such as the American Society of Nutrition & the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics should provide guidance on dietetic curricular issues for training future graduates on CAM.
Funding Sources : No funding was acquired for this study.