Health professionals are required to act and behave in a certain manner in accordance with their profession. Therefore specific statements, ethical guidelines, and codes of conduct are created and introduced to each health discipline to assist practitioners in providing safe and effective client care. Professional identity is the reputation and overall image an individual portrays in their discipline. These standards such as being competent, trustworthy and respectful are important factors that influence an individual’s professional identity and the way the public views them. Ultimately each health profession has these rules and regulations to improve patients overall health and for each professional to have a healthy, strong relationship with their patients.
Professional identity is the image and reputation of an individual based on the way he/she operates in their discipline. Professional identity has a bi-directional relationship with the public as a specific health professionals image can be influenced by their self-concept, personal values, attitudes, education/ knowledge and the publics expectation of them. On the other hand, the public can already have a clear depiction of how a certain health professional should act and the reputation they should uphold in the workforce such as, to be honest, respectful, trustworthy and to ultimately help patients to reach their full physical, mental, social and emotional health. Overall the public can influence the status of a profession on how trustworthy and well-liked they are based on their professional identity.
The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) is the peak body in dietetics that has shaped the professional identity of dietitians and the way they are perceived by the community. The DAA has created codes, guidelines, and statements which influence a dietitian’s professional identity as these are expectations of the public as well as a guide for dietitians on how to act in the workforce. The DAA has developed their key statement being the ‘Statement of Ethical Practice’ to ensure consistency in their service and maintain dietitians overall good image in the health community by conducting themselves in a professional and ethical manner in the workforce. This statement is designed to guide dietitians when making decisions but not ‘how to make decisions or to act in particular situations’ and further show the public the values that dietitians hold. The DAA outlines the fundamental values, principles and professional expectations in their mission and vision being that ‘DAA is the leader in nutrition for better food, better health and wellbeing for all.’ Also, the DAA provides ‘strategic leadership in food and nutrition through empowerment, advocacy, education, accreditation, and communication.’ Therefore this statement is essential for all qualified dietitians to understand the set standards of client care they must abide by to uphold the positive reputation that they have in the health community.
The ‘Statement of Ethical Practice’ is one of the methods the DAA uses to ensure consistency in dietetic service. Based on this statement dietitians are required to follow the values and principles in their discipline such as to be ‘honest and fair with members of the public, colleagues, employers and employees’ and ‘respect individual’s needs, values, culture and privacy.’ These standards outline that dietitians must not only act professionally but be able to give the finest and safest patient care. Dietitians client relationships is an important part of their work as if they are seen as genuine, respectful, competent and reliable professionals they are then able to gain client’s trust and further strengthen their relationship with them. Therefore by dietitians following these values they would overall be perceived as safe, helpful and trusted professionals that can offer the most effective client care and be highly respected by the public. Additionally, dietitians must accept and consider clients views and values when developing programs for them to help them achieve their optimal nutritional status. By dietitians following this guideline, clients are then able to trust and have even more confidence in their dietitian as they respect them as an individual, their decision and boundaries. Furthermore, dietitians are required to work with, respect and acknowledge a range of companies, colleagues and professionals such as GP, speech pathologist etc. that aid dietitians in helping their patients meet their ideal nutritional status because without them dietitians are unable to do their job effectively.
The DAA has created another method to ensure consistency in the dietetic field being the formation of a Dietetic Credentialing Council (DCC) which ‘is an independent Council responsible for the regulatory framework for the dietetic profession in Australia.’ The DCC ensures that dietitians history and ‘regulation processes are efficient, effective, equitable, accountable and transparent.’ The DCC is therefore responsible for monitoring the quality of care that dietitians give to their clients as they make sure that all members are registered, trained and have the same qualification to practice on patients. They also supervise the maintaining and developing of the ‘regulatory standards, codes and guidelines and their implementation and review related to the APD program.’ Furthermore, the DAA has created and governed an Accredited Practicing Dietitian Program (APDP) which is a credentialing program for dietitians and is a’ way for consumers and other stakeholders to recognise professionals with qualifications and skills to offer expert nutrition and dietary advice in a safe and evidence based way.’ The DCC further monitors the quality of care that dietitians deliver to their clients through ensuring that all dietitians complete the APDP as requirement before entering the workforce. Additionally, the ADP ‘adheres to the Standards set by the National Alliance of Self Regulating Health Professions (NASRHP).’ The NASRHP is a ‘independent body providing a quality (and supportive) framework for self-regulating health professions’ such as dietitians. The NASRHP further advocates, promotes, increases public confidence and ‘maintains a framework of standards for self-regulation health professions.’ Therefore these approaches allow the DAA to guide qualified dietitians of the arrangement in providing of safe and effective client care.
Standards and guidelines are an essential aspect of any discipline as they create the foundation for professionals to provide consistent safe and effective client care. Professional identity is mainly influenced by the rules and regulations specified for each discipline as they can shape how a profession is perceived by the public. For dietitians, the DAA has created a Statement of Ethical Practice to outline the important values for dietitians to follow in the workforce to ‘ensure consistent approaches and high standards’. Furthermore, the DCC is able to monitor and control the quality of care that dietitians give to their patients as they are able to ensure that all dietitians are qualified, registered and trained through the completion of the APDP.