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Nutrition Informatics Blog



Students and Informatics - Two Important Ingredients to the Success of Our Profession

Students + Informatics:

Two Important Ingredients to the Success of Our Profession

Phyllis Fatzinger McShane, MS, RD, LDN 

This past week, I welcomed a new class of dietetic interns with an orientation to our concentration area, which focuses on nutrition, communication, and information management. Each year, this orientation content changes to reflect rapid evolution in this area (eg, Facebook, once our “cutting edge,” is losing its market share as other social media tools emerge and evolve).

Whether interns are developing problem, etiology, signs and symptoms (PES) statements, or learning how to use Twitter® for professional marketing and/or Weebly to set up their professional Web site, in each case, they are using critical thinking plus technology to organize and communicate their nutrition-related data/information (à la “basic” nutrition informatics). However if they are asked, these students would deny that they already are using nutrition informatics.

So as educators, how do we convince them that:

·   They already are using a basic form of nutrition informatics

·   They need to acquire greater informatics skills to assure success in the future

·   Informatics is just as “hot” of a topic to know about as obesity and diabetes

As educators, we need to step back and realize that we too are already practicing (at least basic) nutrition informatics. Because of the current national push for acute-care hospital electronic health record (EHR) implementation, it is easy to think nutrition informatics=EHRs. However, nutrition informatics (the intersection of nutrition, communication, and information management) encompasses a very broad area that includes much more than EHRs. 

To identify the necessary current and future nutrition informatics skills, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ (AND) Nutrition Informatics Committee (NIC) recently completed a Delphi Study. This study (publication in process) describes the skill sets for all levels of dietetic practitioners, from undergraduate dietetics students to the informatics specialist, describing what is necessary for effective dietetic practice in the area of nutrition informatics.

At the same time, NIC with AND is diligently working to develop mutually beneficial partnerships with the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and Nursing’s Technology Informatics Guiding Educational Reform (TIGER) to provide students and practicing registered dietitians with the training resources that already exist.

As previously noted, the environment continues to evolve and change. Last year, if someone had said to me that I would soon use a free software tool called “SignUp Genius” to assign students to slots, I would have most likely giggled. But several minutes ago, I sent out a SignUp Genius link to the new interns, so they could each select a session to use our limited number of Nutrition Care Manual® licenses to complete an assignment. SignUp Genius sends a simultaneous e-mail invitation link to all interns (making it equal to all), allows them to pick which slot they will use, and removes this instructor from the process. Great tool—organizes student data/use, is equal to all, and keeps the teacher “out of the middle.”

In summary, nutrition informatics—the intersection of nutrition, communication, and information management—is here. Many of us are already practicing it without realizing it, but we have much more to learn, both as educators and students. 

Add a Comment
Comments (1):
9/4/2012 4:17:58 PM by Peggy Turner

Great information Phyllis. Thanks for putting it in such simple terms.

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