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Coming and Going: Dietetic Students’ Experience of Their Education

Jennifer Atkins MHSc, RD,a Jacqui Gingras PhD, RDb

a Access Alliance: Multicultural Health and Community Services, Toronto, ON

b School of Nutrition, Ryerson University, Toronto, ON

Published on the web 18 November 2009.


Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research, 2009, 70(4): 181-186, https://doi.org/10.3148/70.4.2009.181

Abstract

Purpose: Nutrition students’ expectations for and experiences of their education were explored, as was the influence of the educational process on the students.

Methods: In this qualitative research guided by a phenomenological approach, eight students in the first year and six in the final year of an undergraduate program completed semistructured interviews.

Results: Although the students were diverse in terms of age, ethnicity, and class background, all stated that they wanted to become dietitians. Our findings illuminate the ways in which dietetic education influences students’ relationship with food, their bodies, bodies of knowledge, and family and friends. Professionalization, as initiated through discourse, necessitates a particular loss of relationship with the self. Although students enter with an awareness of professional norms and discourses, their education fosters an identity shift based on the kinds of nutrition knowledge and discourses they are learning, as these are performed by educators.

Conclusions: Acknowledging that an embodied curriculum has an impact on professionalization is important for educators and students because education is a critical site for developing a professional identity; this identity then influences how dietitians practise. This research has implications for recruitment language, professional practice curricula, faculty development, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and ongoing support for students as they enter practice contexts.

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