The first cohort of students in the Meredith College Master of Science in Nutrition–Accelerated Dietitian Nutritionist Track (MS-ADNT) began their studies this fall.
This track is a newer style of nutrition program that was created by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) to help streamline the pathway toward becoming a registered dietitian.
“This program combines didactic coursework with supervised experiential learning (SEL) in a competency-based curriculum, so students are taking classes at the same time that they are in the field in clinical, community, and food service settings,” said Assistant Professor of Food and Nutrition Coleman Hale, the MS-ADNT program director.
Among the benefits is that the new track can be completed in under two years. Successful students will earn their Master of Science in Nutrition degree and be eligible to sit for the Commission of Dietetic Registration (CDR) credentialing exam to become a registered dietitian.
“While this program is full-time as students will be in class or their supervised experiential learning (SEL) field experience every weekday, this style program is quicker for students to complete than the previous traditional pathways,” Hale said.
Students in the MS-ADNT program will also be able to immediately apply material learned in class to an SEL experience.
“For example, students are currently in their food service management course with lab and they are going to their food service supervised experiential learning (SEL) site so they can see what they are learning in action in the field,” Hale said. “For our community-based and clinical-based SELs, students are learning and practicing through simulation or role-playing scenarios one semester and then head into the field for their SEL experiences in public health, wellness, and clinical sites the following semester. This allows students to immerse themselves in the material and over time work to build competence to that of an entry-level dietitian.”
Hale explained that in competency-based education, the focus is on measuring progress toward meeting the required competencies needed to perform professionally related functions. In the ADNT program, this means preparation to work as an entry-level registered dietitian nutritionist.
“The ultimate goal for the curriculum shifts from knowledge acquisition to knowledge application and the assessment process shifts from an emphasis on summative to an emphasis on formative evaluation,” she said. “This means that students will have multiple opportunities to build their skills and ultimately demonstrate proficiency on a variety of competencies over their time in the program.”
First Cohort Began in August
There are eight students in the first MS-ADNT cohort, all of whom have undergraduate degrees in health-related fields such as nutrition, public health, and health sciences.
“These students all spent time gaining experience in nutrition-related positions through volunteering or paid work experiences during their undergraduate degrees,” said Hale.
While the students in the first cohort have undergraduate degrees in related fields, the program is open to anyone with a bachelor’s degree who has completed the required prerequisite courses. The program aims to grow to 12 students in the next cohort.
“In addition to the academic preparations, some characteristics we are looking for in students that make them a good fit for this program include strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills, ability to work as a team member and a leader, self-starter, and of course professionalism,” Hale said. Prospective students can demonstrate these skills from previous work and volunteer experiences, and through their recommendation letters submitted with their applications.
Being adaptable and flexible are also important skills, Hale notes, “especially in the SEL setting where we know preceptor’s tasks may suddenly change on any given day.”
Hands-On Learning in Nutrition Simulation Lab
A notable benefit of Meredith’s nutrition programs is the College’s on-site Nutrition Simulation Lab, which features a high-fidelity patient simulator. Hale said the program is using this lab to prepare ADNT students for their SEL experiences.
“This will greatly benefit students in all of our programs as they will get hands-on experience with the patient simulator before going into the field,” Hale said. “Students have been completing nutrition assessments, patient interviews, nutrition-focused physical exams, and providing medical nutrition therapy to standardized patients under the guidance of clinical instructors to allow students to show the skills that they have learned and to help increase student confidence prior to going into the field.”
Meredith Offers Options for Nutrition Professionals
Hale notes that Meredith’s graduate nutrition program also offers other pathways to becoming a registered dietitian.
“The MS-DPD and DI pathway towards becoming an RDN is still an option offered by Meredith College, and each pathway has its own unique benefits,” she said. “The great thing is that Meredith College offers multiple pathways towards becoming an RDN, which really allows us to offer our graduate students a more personalized experience that meets their needs.”