PROJECT OF MERIT
Mia Howell, Lora Chizmar, Kristen Hicks-Roof, Karen Beathard
Dr. Kristen Hicks-Roof | Brooks College of Health | Department of Nutrition and Dietetics
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics highlights the need for more mentorship opportunities for Registered Dietitian (RDs) in their 2017 Strategic Plan. There are a limited number of published structured programs that facilitate relationships between practicing dietitians and dietetics students (DS). The purpose of the RD Mentorship Program is to determine the impact of a project-based mentoring experience on self-perceptions of mentoring and professional advancement. The RD Mentorship Program partners RDs with DS to work on specific nutrition-related projects. Partnerships are required to meet at least once per month to work on their project. After piloting the program for several years, the program launched state-wide in Texas and Florida for 2019-2020. Currently, there are 178 RDs and 202 DS which includes a 15% attrition rate from the start. At baseline, 23% of RDs currently had a student working with them, and 62% of RDs reported being confident in their mentoring ability. As for DS, 44% had worked with an RD before at baseline and 57% reported confidence in their mentee abilities. In the mid-program evaluation survey (n=110), a majority of participants (53%) said they found the program very useful or extremely useful, and 86% of the participants said they would be interested in participating in the program in the future. It is hoped that the RD Mentorship Program will strengthen the working knowledge of students and be an innovative approach to building the bridge between student and practitioner, fulfilling part of the Academy’s Strategic Plan.
Hi welcome to our presentation on the RD Mentorship Program. The RD Mentorship Program was a program that launched statewide in Texas and Florida this year, in the 2019-2020 school year. There were 178 registered dietitians and 202 dietetics students who participated in this program which matched the dietitians with the dietetics students in a mentoring relationship where the pair worked on a project throughout the school year. In 2017, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics highlighted mentorship and mentoring as one of their top priorities in their Visioning Report. Currently, only about 50% of dietetics preceptors feel like they provide a supporting learning environment for their interns. There is also currently a shortage of dietetics preceptors that is acknowledged by our credentialing bodies. That’s where this program comes into play. The hope is to increase the confidence of practicing dietitians in their mentoring abilities in the hopes they will decide to become dietetics preceptors and to prepare dietetics students to become better interns and better equipped to enter the workplace. In July 2019, RDs and dietetics students were recruited for the program. They were required to meet once a month at least throughout the school year. The program had to end early in March 2020 due to coronavirus restrictions. We had pre-surveys that went out at the very beginning of the program as well as post-surveys at the end. In December of 2019, we sent out a mid-program evaluation survey to get some feedback while in the middle of the program. As you can see on the maps, the program includes RDs and dietetic students from all over both Texas and Florida. Our program also included several RDs with multiple credentials, with over 100 having a master’s degree. The pie chart below shows the distribution of the various schools the dietetic students are attending. In the midterm evaluation surveys, a majority of both the RDs and dietetic students rated the program extremely or very useful, as well as a majority showing an interest in continuing to participate in the RD mentorship program on the future. An overwhelming majority also enjoyed the variety of dietitians and projects to select from for the program. Our goal is to see how a project based mentoring program will impact the perceptions of mentoring abilities in both RDs and dietetic students. The hope would be to encourage RDs to become preceptors and to better equip dietetic students to enter a dietetic internship and the professional workplace. After the feedback we have received this far, the plan is to launch the program again next year.