As nutrition and dietetics professionals, we care for an increasingly diverse patient population. However, not much has been done historically to promote diversity within our profession. In fact, as of March 25, 2019, 87.3 percent of American dietitians identified as female and 74.4 percent identified as white. It’s no secret that diversifying the nutrition and dietetics workforce will improve health outcomes. After all, our patients are not one race or gender — why should we be? As interns, we will soon be entering the workforce and have an ethical responsibility to make decisive steps to help diversify our profession.
So, what can we do to help?
Research has shown that the majority of healthcare workers don’t believe they have any bias, even unconsciously, and that they are always fair. Unlike conscious bias, unconscious bias happens automatically and unknowingly, oftentimes without conscious awareness. Ignoring bias is not constructive. We must recognize and accept that bias occurs, even if it makes us uncomfortable, and position ourselves to learn from others and stay open to constructive feedback.
Seek Continuing Education
Attend training sessions on cultural competence. Most students have limited classes on cultural competence in their undergraduate studies. Become familiar with the resources available to you such as the eBook Cultural Competency for Nutrition Professionals. Join a dietetic practice group or member interest group or support a mentorship program that promotes diversity. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation offers some wonderful opportunities tailored specifically to support and encourage diverse students and professionals. We can support diversity and equity within our profession by donating to the Foundation, helping to support their philanthropy.
Take time to educate others if you encounter a situation you believe could have been handled with more cultural competence. Take time to learn about your organization’s diversity policies and statements. Offer input and revision, if necessary. Reach out to program directors to begin conversations on how to include students of diverse backgrounds and what the roles might be.
At the end of the day, practicing cultural competence is everyone’s responsibility.