To FM's Editors:
Thank you for the timely article “Nurturing the RD to FSD Connection” that appeared in the November 2008 issue. I have been on a soap box for 95% of my career preaching the importance of a well-rounded education for RDs. (See JADA March Commentary: Education and the Profession).
Many of us in the field have sought to call attention to the immense importance of preparing dietitians so they are capable of moving up the ladder in foodservice. This process starts with undergraduate education and continues through internships, and the earning of advanced degrees. It is a life-long journey, and management skills are an essential part of the road map for it.
In both undergraduate programs and internships, most of the classes/time and experiences are spent in the clinical area, even though — in my view — management is the axis around which all dietetics ultimately turns.
Virtually every successful effort depends upon the exercise of strong management skills. This is true for simple things, like the planning of an effective daily “to do list,” all the way up to more complex tasks of leadership, human resources management and budgetary/fiscal responsibilities. Management also implies an openness to and an ability to manage change, always an ongoing challenge.
Today, in response to the concerns many have raised about this need, ADA is striving to improve its ability to help dietitians develop these skills via its Task Force on Education. This task force has developed a new educational plan that puts a greater emphasis on management. It will take a number of years to implement this approach and to find instructors who are qualified by education/experience to teach management.
Another effort has been made by Management in Foodservice and Nutrition Systems, a practice group of ADA, to develop Standards of Professional Performance for Registered Dietitians in Food and Nutrition Systems. These standards are representative of entry level and advance practice for management. The final report of this practice group will be published in the March issue of JADA (Journal of the American Dietetic Association).
In our country's current economic crisis, greater management skills and responsibilities are clearly required. Dietetic departments, like other departments, are undergoing processes of strict self and administrative evaluation. This often results in department restructurings with reductions in staff (often from the ranks of clinical RDs, since their salaries are the highest), as well as the implementation of new practices designed to cut food costs, increase productivity, etc. Successfully navigating such transitions also demands a higher level of management skills.
For these and many other reasons now is indeed the time for our professional community to place a greater emphasis on ensuring that management skills of the highest order are being taught as a critical component of the dietetics disicipline.