Workplace learning and career progression: qualitative perspectives of UK dietitians

R. C. Boocock, R. K. O'rourke

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



    Post‐graduate education and continuous professional development (CPD) within dietetics lack clearly defined pathways. The current literature primarily focuses on new graduate perceptions of workplace learning (WPL). The present study raises issues of how CPD is sustained throughout a National Health Service (NHS) career, how informal learning might be made more visible and whether the workplace withholds learning opportunities.

    Qualified dietitians participated in focus groups (n = 32) and a nominal group technique (n = 24). Data from audio recordings were transcribed and triangulated. Thematic analysis took an interpretative approach.

    One size for WPL for dietetics and, likely, other allied health professionals (AHPs) did not meet the learning needs of everyone. The informal implicit learning affordances often went unrecognised. A greater emphasis on teaching, picking up on the strong preference for discussion with others voiced in the present study, may improve recognition of all WPL opportunities. Better scaffolding or guided support of entry level dietitians may ease the transition from study to workplace and challenge any perception of ‘clipped wings’. Where development and career progression proves difficult for experienced dietitians, mentoring or stepping outside the NHS may revitalise by providing new communities of practice.

    WPL cannot be understood as a unitary concept. Dietitians engage with WPL differently across their careers. Future visions of WPL, especially explicit post‐graduate career and education frameworks, must accommodate these differences to retain the highest calibre dietitians. The implications of a period of learning ‘maintenance’ rather than CPD among experienced dietitians offers a topic for further research, particularly as the workforce ages.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)704-711
    JournalJournal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics
    Issue number5
    Early online date10 Jun 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


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