“Stay Out or Get Out” What is Contributing to a Declining Dietetic Workforce in Ontario? (Mar 2011)

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Title: “Stay Out or Get Out” What is Contributing to a Declining Dietetic Workforce in Ontario?
Principal ApplicantTitle(s)Institutional AffiliationFunding AmountAnticipated Completion Date
Dr. Jacqui Gingras Registered Dietitian,
Assistant Professor
School of Nutrition, Faculty of Community Services at Ryerson University $25,000 March 2011
Co-Applicant(s)Titles(s)Institutional Affiliation(s)
Angela Cuddy Registered Dietitian,
PhD Candidate
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto (OISE/UT), Department of Theory and Policy Studies

 gingras2.comBiography of Principal Investigator: Dr Jacqui Gingras, Assistant Professor in Ryerson University’s School of Nutrition, will examine why practitioners leave the profession with the goal of understanding conditions that might support practitioners and keep them engaged in their work. She will share her understanding of the unique challenges of integrating internationally educated practitioners into practice in Canada and she will examine the hopes and goals of first-year students entering undergraduate nutrition programs to better understand their perceptions with the realities of practice. Research methods employed include large scale surveys and individual interviews as well as photovoice.


Like many health professions in Ontario, the profession of dietetics is facing human resources issues related to recruitment, retention, an aging workforce and the changing landscape of Canadian healthcare. Since the role of nutrition in health is undeniable, it becomes important, in the interest of providing safe, ethical, and effective nutritional care to Ontarians, to understand the factors contributing to a declining dietetic workforce. Such understanding better positions educators, regulators, and employers to develop appropriate strategies to prevent further decline and/or to bolster current professional numbers to a level that would allow Ontarians suitable access to dietetic services.

This research will examine human resource issues related to dietetics from several perspectives:

  1. Dietitians in practice who have chosen to resign their professional license in the last 5 years will be asked to elaborate on their reasons for leaving the profession and to describe the types of supports that might have mitigated their departure from the profession had they been available. This project will enable researchers to understand the associations between leaving the profession and the impact on organizational culture vis-à-vis professional transition shock.
  2. Internationally Educated Dietitians (IED) will be asked to share their perspective of transition into the Canadian workforce through Photovoice, the development of pictures which are chosen to represent deeper thoughts and feelings. Additional commentary will be solicited through focus groups and interviews. The aim of this research is to understand and give voice to the unique challenges that IEDs face as immigrants, as (predominantly) women, and as dietitians and to develop further strategies to assist transition into the Ontario workforce.
  3. Students entering undergraduate educational programs with the goal of practicing dietetics upon graduation will be asked to share their professional identity ideal, their hopes for their own future practice, and their vision of their future work environment via survey and the development of brief compositions or blogs. The aim of this research is to establish if disjunctures exist between the ideals of undergraduates and the realities of dietetic practice in Ontario. These students will be followed for 7 years as part of a larger study.

Upon completion of these three projects, further funding applications will be submitted to CIHR for the development of longer term research of intervention strategies, and to SSHRC to undertake an Institutional Ethnography examining the ruling relations and power structures influencing productivity within the profession.

The results of this work will be disseminated widely, specifically to the OHHRN, the MOHLTC, College of Dietitians of Ontario, Dietitians of Canada, Partnership for Dietetic Education and Practice, and Dietetics Education Leadership Forum of Ontario. Additionally, this work will be presented at relevant dietetics conferences and submitted for publication in relevant journals.

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