An exploration of the evolving role of Dietitian Assistants – a single site experience

Mr Cameron Mclean1,2, Ms Christina Lee2, Ms Marley  Desmares-Matters2, Ms Natasha  Turner1, Ms Helen Dragicevich1

1St George Hospital, Kogarah, Australia, 2University of Wollongong, Wollongong, 2500

Aim: the role of the allied health assistant in an acute care hospital has been historically a technical assistant, and for Nutrition and Dietetics (Dietitian Assistants) has been food service based. The Ministry of Health Allied Health Assistant Framework provides an opportunity to enhance the Nutrition & Dietetics workforce at St George Hospital. A structured supervision and competency based professional development program was implemented to train current Dietitian Assistants (DA) in performing clinical ward based nutritional tasks. This evaluation explored the perspectives of DA’s throughout this process.

Methods: all currently employed DA’s at St George Hospital were invited to participate. Interview questions were piloted and amended after discussion with the dietitian assistant educator and student dietitians. Two (2) student dietitians conducted semi-structured interviews that were audiotaped and transcribed.  Participants were provided the opportunity to review transcribed transcripts. A thematic analysis of transcripts was conducted.

Results: strong themes of positivity and satisfaction emerged from the dietitian assistants with the evolution of new roles and responsibilities and increased contribution to the patient journey. Themes acknowledging support emerged largely from the positive role of the dietitian assistant educator and each other (DA’s). However, challenges emerged as dietitians being unprepared with the delegation of nutritional tasks, unclear communication channels and resource limitations.

Conclusion: this case study provides relevant insights into our assistant workforce. Future work should focus on addressing the identified challenges that will continue to contribute to workplace positivity and job satisfaction whilst supporting the role of the clinical dietitian.


Cameron McLean is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Dietitian Assistant Educator at St George Hospital Sydney. He has a passion for research and QI and has significantly evolved the role of the Dietitian Assistant at our local site.

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