Dietitians' views and perceptions of the implementation of the continuing professional development system for dietitians in South Africa

Martin, Claire Juliet (2007-12)

Thesis (MNutr (Human Nutrition))--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.


INTRODUCTION: The study’s objective was to evaluate the South African Continuing Professional Development (CPD) system for dietitians, by determining their perceptions of the systems’ implementation and participation in CPD activities within the system, that was in place from 1 September 2001 until 1 April 2006. METHODS: The study was designed as an observational descriptive study. Three data gathering techniques were used, incorporating both quantitative and qualitative methods:- i) A national survey of dietitians was conducted using a self-administered questionnaire. The 40 item questionnaire comprised 3 sections, i.e. socio-demographics, the CPD system, and CPD activities. Content and face validity was conducted followed by pilot testing, prior to distribution via post and e-mail, to 1589 dietitians. ii) After the survey, 3 focus group discussions (FGD) were held with 19 Pretoria-based dietitians, to discuss issues that emerged from the questionnaire responses. iii) In-depth interviews were conducted with 6 CPD personnel representing the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), CPD Committee and the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) providing insights from an administrative and managerial perspective. RESULTS: A response rate of 20% was achieved for the national survey. More respondents found the ADSA and CPD office helpful, friendly, easy to contact and their CPD queries efficiently handled. However respondents and FGD participants stated that the HPCSA was difficult to contact and CPD queries were unresolved. Respondents called for simplified rules and guidelines to improve understanding of the system since they felt that CPD information/correspondence was lengthy and difficult to understand. The majority of respondents (54.5%; n=156) and most FGD participants did not find the CPD administration fee reasonable. Affordability of CPD activities was also a concern with 55.2% (n=164) stating that activities were expensive. A few FGD dietitians and 29.65% (n=88) of respondents did agree that there were both expensive and affordable activities to choose from. Statistically significant differences were found between the amounts of money spent on CPD across the various practice areas, qualifications and between provinces. Dietitians’ current CPD practices were mainly attendance at lectures and seminars, followed by conferences and then journal articles. If given a preference, however, respondents ranked conferences as their top preference followed by lectures. Journal clubs were rated third, ahead of journal reading. Barriers to CPD participation included cost, limited activities close by, obtaining leave from work, family obligations and internet access. Variety and usefulness of topics for presentations and articles were also criticised, as was the technical nature of questions. In the new system, the reduced annual CPD points requirement was appreciated, however 51.7% (n= 161) preferred not to keep their own CPD records. CONCLUSION: The study provided some insights into dietitians’ perceptions of the CPD system. Strengths of the current system were stated as improved knowledge, improved patient care and networking with colleagues. Issues identified for improvement include simpler CPD correspondence and reasonable fees. Additionally, ways should be sought to minimise barriers to participating in CPD. Addressing these issues will contribute to the provision of quality CPD within a system that is acceptable to its participants.

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