Qualitatively Assessing Undergraduate Dietetic Students’ Abilities to Counsel in a Nutrition Therapy Class


      To qualitatively assess undergraduate dietetic students’ counseling abilities in a nutrition therapy class.

      Study Design, Setting, Participants, Intervention

      A qualitative study was conducted at a Mid-Western University in Fall 2016 in a nutrition therapy class. Eight senior-level undergraduate dietetic students; 2 males and 6 females, were enrolled in the class. Students met with a graduate student, who acted as the patient, for five case studies throughout the course. These case studies were based on a chronic condition. Students were informed how to counsel at the beginning of the course, but not guided throughout the course on fine-tuning their counseling abilities. Students were provided with a medical chart 24 hours prior to the counseling session. The graduate student sat outside in a semi-private hallway and was counseled by each student for 20 minutes.

      Outcome, Measures, Analysis

      After each counseling session, the graduate student assessed each student based on a ten-point counseling criteria that she created. Transcript analysis of responses from the ten criterion followed content analysis methodology.


      Over the course of 16 weeks, students overall improved their counseling abilities. Particularly, in the criterion: building rapport, compassion/empathy, prioritizing important information, respect of personal/religious preferences and scope of questions. However, students did not appear to improve in the criterion: eye contact, body language and preparation. Nutrition jargon remained at a consistent low throughout the five sessions.

      Conclusions and Implications

      The evidence supports that students who are exposed to live, interactive counseling sessions will improve their counseling abilities. Effectively, providing students with this opportunity to counsel in the classroom will help them as future RDNs.


      Winkleblack Grant

      Supplementary data