Frequency of use and perceived importance of communication in dietetics practice Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/ns064810n

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  • The purpose of this study was to explore the extent of use, preparedness and importance of the communication skills currently listed in the foundation knowledge and skills for dietetics education and to explore how these skills are used in practice. A total of 403 self-administered questionnaires, listing eleven elements of communication, were mailed to registered dietitians from four target populations. The target populations of interest were dietitians employed in the following practice areas: (1) business and industry, (2) clinical nutrition management, (3) foodservice management and (4) public health. The overall response rate was 45.8% (n=168). Overall, the most frequently used (1 = almost never, 7 = very often) elements of communication were: interpersonal communication skills (μ=6.71), educational techniques (μ=5.72), and concepts of human and group dynamics (μ=5.50). The element of communication used least frequently was media presentations (μ=3.74). The communication elements perceived as most important (1 = most important, 11 = least important) by practitioners overall were: interpersonal communication skills (μ=2.13), concepts of human and group dynamics (μ=4.75), and negotiation techniques (μ=4.76). The element of communication ranked least important was media presentations (μ=8.12). Study results indicated that all of the elements of communication listed in the foundation knowledge and skills are used by dietetic practitioners. Comparing the results of frequency of use with perceived importance, responses indicated that the communication elements used most and least frequently were also perceived as the most and least important to dietetics practice, respectively. Results comparing communication preparation from academics versus work experience revealed that practitioners' perceive learning significantly more from work experience than from academic training (p <.001) in ten of the eleven elements of communication, with the exception of technical writing. The results also revealed that dietitians are involved in many different activities which involve the use of communication skills. Of the 99% of respondents who reported using interpersonal skills, 85% indicated these skills are used when communicating with employees, staff, or other professionals. Only 27% of respondents reported using interpersonal skills for communicating with patients or customers. Participants were asked to list additional communication skills, techniques or strategies considered to be important for dietetics practice. Responses revealed trends including the importance of electronic communication as well as more subtle communication skills, such as listening, humor, and empathy. This exploratory study contributes to a foundation for further research of communication in dietetics. Findings from this study can help educators identify communications which should receive greater emphasis during dietetics education, supervised practice, and/or continuing education. The communications reported to be most frequently used and perceived as most important, as well as the identification of specific activities involving communication, can be used by practitioners and students to enhance professional and managerial development. Results can also be used for development and evaluation of continuing education programs and standards of practice. Future studies should explore communication competency among dietetic professionals at different levels of experience, including students, dietetic interns, entry-level practitioners and beyond entry-level practitioners. Measures of competency may reveal how effectively practitioners use communication skills and indicate when and where communication is learned. Further research can contribute to identifiing which specific areas of communication need to be enhanced.
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