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Topics in Clinical Nutrition:
Professional Trends

Developing a Continuum for Lifelong Learning in Dietetics

Touger-Decker, Riva PhD, RD, FADA

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Abstract

Continuing Professional Education (CPE) is education beyond entry level. It is critical for personal and professional development and the success of dietetics practitioners. The need to develop a lifelong learning plan should be directed by a personal desire to stay current and prepare for one's future practice. Dietetics professionals should select CPE experiences that are consistent with the personal and professional demands of their careers. A conceptual framework for developing a lifelong learning plan, environmental issues, perceived needs for CPE, and other factors affecting the development of a continuum for lifelong learning are explored in this article. Strategies and opportunities for practical approaches to developing a lifelong learning plan are suggested.

CONTINUING PROFESSIONAL Education is defined by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) as “education beyond that required for entry into the profession.” 1 It is “an ongoing process of expanding knowledge and skills beyond the level of basic education.” 2 “Lifelong learning” is a value of the 2000–04 Strategic Plan of the American Dietetic Association, defined as “personal accountability for one's own skills and seeking opportunities for continued learning.” 3 It is critical for personal and professional development and success of dietetics practitioners. The need to develop a lifelong learning plan, although a requirement by CDR to remain credentialed, should be directed by a personal desire to stay current and prepare for the future in one's discipline and related areas. Practice issues driving the need for lifelong learning as well as strategies to achieve such learning need to be addressed by those who seek to create fluid, flexible lifelong learning plans. According to O'Neil and Seifer, “Dietitians must ask themselves…what are the skills that might be added to our professional background that would make us more valuable to the emerging health care systems.” 4

A framework leading up to and resulting in a lifelong learning plan along with environmental issues and other factors affecting the development of a continuum for lifelong learning are explored in this article. Perceived needs of dietetics professionals for continuing professional education are also addressed. Strategies and opportunities for practical approaches to developing a lifelong learning plan are suggested.

© 2002 Aspen Publishers, Inc.

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