February 2023 Newsletter
New Accrediting Body for Dietetic Education Programs in Canada
In 2022, all dietetic regulatory bodies across Canada approved EQual as the accreditor of dietetic education programs. This is for the purpose of program approval leading to licensure. EQual is experienced in the accreditation of health education programs, and is positioned to provide an objective and sustainable model that provides assurance of quality, credibility, and confidence in accreditation survey results.
The Partnership for Dietetic Education and Practice (PDEP) was the accreditor and Dietitians of Canada (DC) held the contract with PDEP to be the service provider. When DC provided notice to end their contract, a new service provider was required. The context behind the decision to change accreditors is complex, however a brief Q&A is below to support an understanding of the decision.
What is accreditation and why does it matter?
In the context of dietetic regulation, the purpose of accreditation is to assess program compliance with national standards and demonstrate the quality and effectiveness of programs. Accreditation helps to ensure that those who enter the profession have the knowledge and abilities to practice safely and effectively. Accreditation is also a quality improvement process that supports education programs.
Does EQual accredit other allied health professions? I heard that their expertise is only with technical programs.
EQual is a subsidiary of Accreditation Canada and conducts accreditation for 22 health professions. Academic programs are accredited by EQual, including physician assistants, respiratory therapy, and nuclear medicine. EQual’s accreditation standards are generic and relevant to technical and academic professions. The accreditation survey also confirms meeting dietetic-specific standards and dietitians participate on survey teams.
Why doesn’t NSCDN directly approve education programs?
NSCDN does not have the capacity or expertise to directly approve dietetic education programs. If NSCDN were to directly approve programs, dietitians’ license fees would need to increase to support the development of a robust and reliable process. The process must be sustainable, objective and effective. Secondly, a nationally recognized accreditor satisfies and supports labour mobility. Graduates from Nova Scotia programs may apply to any dietetic regulatory body in Canada. A graduate from any EQual-accredited dietetic program in Canada is eligible to be licensed with any dietetic regulatory body in Canada.
How will students be impacted if a program does not choose to be accredited by EQual?
Dietetic education programs in Canada that do not register with EQual by August 31, 2023 will not be recognized by regulatory bodies as being approved programs for the purpose of registration. Graduates from programs not accredited by EQual will go through a separate assessment process for entry to practice. Repercussions to graduates include cost, a delay to become licensed and uncertainty of the outcome of that assessment. If further education or training is needed, a program will be developed to enable the applicant to acquire and demonstrate their competence.
I heard that programs may close if they can not afford to pay the increased accreditation fee. How do costs compare?
Under PDEP, most integrated dietetic education programs paid accreditation fees of ~$2,655 per year. The fee is determined by the size of the program. The Alliance of Canadian Dietetic Regulatory Bodies negotiated fees with EQual so that there will be a gradual increase in fees.
While not diminishing the impact any additional cost may have, it should be recognized that the PDEP accreditation program ran a deficit for years. One reason why DC discontinued their service to PDEP was that the income from their contract was insufficient to cover their expenses. EQual’s accreditation fees reflect the true cost of accreditation whereas the cost of running PDEP accreditation was partially funded by dietetic regulatory bodies and DC. For health professions, accreditation is predominantly funded by education programs rather than the profession.
I heard that a possible outcome would be that graduates will choose not to become dietitians if their program is not accredited. Wouldn’t this impact the profession?
The public will seek regulated nutrition practitioners for assurance of their credentials and competency. Employers will continue to recognize the importance of having properly credentialed regulated professionals on staff.