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DFN successfully upskills doctors on prescribing nutrition

During April, Doctors For Nutrition launched an online course, ‘Prescribing Nutrition’.  Read about how this course had a significant impact on more than 300 doctors and medical students.

PN Pilot Infographic

Why the ‘Prescribing Nutrition’ course is needed

The majority of general practice consultations in Australia exclude nutrition-related counselling; alarming given that poor nutrition is a leading contributor to health loss and early death.

Research conducted in Australia and New Zealand has identified barriers to GPs providing nutrition care that include; perceptions of inadequate skills in nutrition counselling associated with inadequate training, ambiguous attitudes and, differing perceptions about the role of general practitioners in nutrition care.(1)

Our course was developed to address these barriers and equip healthcare professionals in Australasia with confidence and practical tools to support patients with a plant-based dietary shift.

Video lesson
Video lesson within the Prescribing Nutrition course

The launch of ‘Prescribing Nutrition’

During April and May 2022, more than 300 healthcare professionals enrolled in the two intakes of the Prescribing Nutrition course. The first intake was open to medical students, followed by a second intake for medical doctors. The course consisted of blended learning methods – video, text, an interactive assignment and a live workshop with plant based GP facilitators, including breakout sessions to work on a case study together.

The content was delivered by doctors and dietitians with expertise in whole food plant-based nutrition. Lessons covered evidence supporting the benefits of a healthy plant-based diet, how to talk to patients about diet (especially within the time constraints of a typical GP consultation), recommendations for success, communication skills and everyday practical tips. Participants completed a short quiz following each lesson.

Prescribing Nutrition course contributors
Clockwise from top left: Dr Adrian Griscti, Deeni Betar-Young APD, Dr Alyce Churchill, Dr Luke Wilson, Dr Shireen Kassam, Dr Stephanie Dakin, Dr Malcolm Mackay, Emma Strutt APD, Dr Martyn Williamson and Dr Heleen Roex

The assignment component of the course tasked participants to undertake real life nutrition discussions in consultations with patients, and report back on their experience. This was a great opportunity to put learning into practice, encourage reflection and uncover areas where further development was desired.

Powerful participant feedback

Via completed feedback forms we were pleased to discover that:

  • After engaging with the mini-course, 100% of the participants were more confident talking with patients about plant-based diets.
  • On a scale of how likely participants would be to recommend the mini-course to a friend or colleague, the average was 9 out of 10 (where 10 is highly likely and 1 not at all likely).
  • The mini-course inspired approximately 48% of the participants to make personal dietary changes whereby they intend to eat significantly more whole plant foods.Another 15% intend to eat slightly more whole plant foods and 31% are inspired to continue with the changes they have already made.

Participants reported that the course had delivered an introduction to material that had not been taught during university studies, as well as resources to support them.

I noticed that throughout my medical degree, so far, we have only had 2 hours of nutritional teaching, and it was quite lacklustre. Being able to learn more nutritional medicine has already been beneficial towards my placements and I haven’t even graduated yet. I feel that the more that I learn about nutritional medicine I want to make sure I incorporate it into my future practices because it is vital for the holistic view of a patient’s health. – Medical student, VIC

I have always tried to discuss nutrition with patients in the past, but despite knowing the benefits, and eating plant-based myself I haven’t felt very confident discussing a plant-based diet with patients and tended to give the general and vague advice I was taught in university. Now that I have some useful tools and techniques on how to broach the subject with patients, and especially with the huge amount of informative and practical resources provided in the course, I plan to discuss a plant-based diet a lot more with patients. I feel that I will be able to make a real change in the health of my patients with this increased knowledge. – GP, WA

I really enjoyed this course and learnt a lot (and I have an undergrad in human nutrition!). I appreciated the practical approach and patient-centered advice. – Medical student, QLD

The course opened the eyes of many to the key role that nutrition plays in healthcare and in their future consultations.

Nutrition plays an integral part in the holistic care of a patient’s health. Until this course I had not considered its weight as part of the healthcare conversation. As an aspiring general practitioner, I see nutrition now as something that I want to strive to integrate into the assessment of each patient, as important as the smoking history, and broached as often as blood pressure is measured. – Medical student, VIC

Since doing this course I have been talking about diet in more consultations and I plan to continue to do this. I hope it will mean that I will empower my patients to become in control of their health and not feel reliant on medication. I hope then nutrition will become the first line in my management plan for most patients so that I can then give more patients the chance not to take medication but to try a whole food plant based diet instead. – GP, UK

WFPB nutrition is relevant to all humankind and I would like to discuss this in some form with most patients. I feel more confident in broaching the subject with patients and in ways that will be less judgemental, using a gentle coaching style. I was inspired by the bonus content on the course and have ordered the books that were suggested on communication skills. – Medical doctor (specialist), New Zealand

I thoroughly enjoyed the course and it has been very helpful in making changes to my diet and my families as well as increasing my confidence with advising patients. – Medical doctor (specialist), VIC

Please make this available to all doctors. – Medical doctor (specialist), QLD

Moving forward: help us upskill more doctors to prescribe nutrition

Landing page screenshot
Available spots within the pilot of both the medical students and doctors course filled quickly.

There is no doubt nutrition is a powerful tool that every doctor should have in their toolkit. Our aim is to provide our course far and wide, free of charge and with easy access. Healthcare professionals are in the unique position of being a trusted authority across a broad range of topics, and the ripple effect they can have on their patients, patients’ families and wider communities, is far reaching.

We are able to provide resources like this course to health professionals thanks to the generosity of our donors. Being a fully independent charity that relies solely on donations, every dollar is appreciated.

$100 allows us to provide one free of charge space for the Prescribing Nutrition course. In Australia, on average, a GP sees 114 patients a week. Even if only 80% of the GPs who participate in our mini-course use the skills and resources they have gained to introduce plant-based nutrition at half of their appointments, that $100 donation you make today may equate to more than 400,000 new conversations about the power of whole food plant-based nutrition. If you would like to make a on-off donation, or wish to join others in becoming a monthly donor, please click here.

We have been inundated with queries about the next opening and release of the course to the wider healthcare community, and are delighted to already have more than 100 people on the waiting list.. We anticipate that the next course will be available in the third quarter of 2022. Interested in signing-up? You can join the waitlist here.

Acknowledgements

Doctors For Nutrition extends sincere gratitude to the contributors to ‘Prescribing Nutrition’: Dr Heleen Roex, Dr Luke Wilson, Dr Shireen Kassam, Emma Strutt APD, Dr Alyce Churchill, Dr Malcolm Mackay, Dr Adrian Griscti, Dr Stephanie Dakin, Dr Martyn Williamson and Deeni Betar-Young APD.

Key reference
1. Ball LE, Hughes RM, Leveritt MD. Nutrition in general practice: role and workforce preparation expectations of medical educators. Aust J Prim Health. 2010;16(4):304-10. doi: 10.1071/PY10014

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