Improving dietitians' teaching skills


Many health professionals lack important teaching skills, perhaps adding to patient difficulties in understanding and adopting therapeutic diets. Research suggests that teaching skills improved after dietitians took a continuing education course entitled 'Effective Patient Teaching.' Our study tested whether dietitians' new skills would persist in the field and whether selected patient outcomes would differ as a result. Thirty staff dietitians from six urban hospitals were videotaped teaching patients, then randomly assigned to take the Effective Patient Teaching course or not (control group). Follow-up videotapes were made after 1 week, 1 month, and 3 months. After each teaching session, patient satisfaction and recall were assessed. Two judges rated 20 teaching skills, which were divided into four subsets for analysis. Repeated measures analyses of variance showed overall gains only for the group that took the Effective Patient Teaching course, which scored higher than the control group at 1 week and 1 month, but not at baseline or 3 months. Gains occurred in presentation skills and essential teaching functions. Throughout the study, interpersonal skills were high and adherence promotion skills were low for dietitians in both groups. Groups did not differ on patient satisfaction or recall. Improvements in dietitians' teaching skills translated to the field immediately after they completed the continuing education program, but not all gains were sustained after 3 months. We recommend that dietitians assess their teaching and adherence promotion skills, obtain training where warranted, and periodically reassess the application of those skills during patient teaching sessions.

Publication Title

Journal of the American Dietetic Association

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