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Rachel Waugh
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Taking a Closer Look at the Cookie Cutter: Questioning the Dietitian Stereotype, a Narrative Review
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R. Waugh1, D. Lordly1
1Department of Applied Human Nutrition, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, NS.
Stereotypes are assumptions made based on commonalities within groups of people or items. Common dietitian stereotypes are that they are female, thin, White, young-to-middle aged, wear a white lab coat, eat the perfect diet, and act as the “food police” to others. These views can be held by the public, incoming students, and other healthcare providers.
Objective(s)/Process or Summary of Content
Using a narrative review approach, understandings of the “dietitian stereotype” and impacts of the stereotype on the profession were explored and recommendations for change and questions for future research were generated.
Method(s)/Systemic Approach Used
Between January and March 2022 three databases (Google Scholar, n=5040; CINAHL Plus and MEDLINE, n=287) were searched, using key words. Titles, abstracts and reference lists of included articles were screened for inclusion. Inclusion criteria included articles published in English, from 2000-2021, and supported the research objective.
Many factors were found to contribute to the dietitian stereotype, such as assumptions related to healthcare roles, gender norms, and minority underrepresentation. Internalized stereotypes were connected to job performance, motivation, satisfaction, and identity with one’s profession. Professional stereotypes were found to impact collaboration across healthcare providers and students. Negative stereotyping from other providers and the public reflects a misunderstanding and narrowing of dietitian’s roles and value in Canadian healthcare.
Current dietitian stereotypes do not represent the diversity of roles and individuals who are dietitians. Increasing representation in education, media, and practice is required to more accurately describe the profession. Having visible role models and mentors for underrepresented students and interns is important. Modifying dietetic program recruitment and acceptance to be more inclusive and of interest to those who do not fit the dietitian stereotype is necessary.
Significance to Dietetics
Questioning and responding to current stereotypes that misrepresent the profession is vital for increased diversity, inclusion, valuing and impact of dietitians.
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