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Dietitians: How Credential Requirements Impact Your Care Facility

Published on : 7/24/23
  • New requirements imply an impending gap in available RDs. 

    As the field of nutrition and dietetics continues to evolve, so too do the requirements for licensure. Effective January 1, 2024, aspiring RDs will face a significant change as the minimum degree requirement for eligibility to take the registration exam will change from a bachelor’s degree to a graduate degree. This shift reflects the increasing complexity of the profession, and the growing recognition of the critical role dietitians play in healthcare and senior living environments.  

    According to the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR, the credentialing agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) “Elevating the entry-level RD education to a graduate level is consistent with the knowledge, skills, and research base required in the field of nutrition and dietetics.” Although the transition will present challenges, it also opens new opportunities for advanced knowledge, specialization, and research.

    Fortunately for established practitioners, only those seeking eligibility to take the dietitians’ registration exam for the first time will be required to complete a graduate degree from an accredited university (i.e., a master’s degree, practice doctorate, or doctoral degree). Individuals who establish eligibility for the exam by the end of 2023 will not be required to obtain a graduate degree. (Note they don’t have to take the exam by January 1, 2024, they just have to establish eligibility.) All other entry-level dietitian registration eligibility requirements remain the same. 


    What Does This Mean for Senior Living? 

    Skilled nursing facilities who do not have a full-time registered dietitian on staff must employ a Certified Dietary Manager (CDM). One pivotal step Sodexo Seniors has taken to promote progress toward an alternative model and support both the roles of RDs and CDMs is a partnership with ANFP. With more than 15,000 members, the Association of Nutrition and Foodservice Professionals [ANFP] is one of the nation’s leading organizations focused on foodservice and nutrition operations. It provides numerous educational and networking opportunities, including access to apprentice programs and credentialing for CDMs. ANFP-approved training programs for CDMs are available through many educational institutions in multiple instructional formats such as online, in-person, or via correspondence. By partnering with industry leaders like Sodexo, ANFP can further its mission of providing optimum nutritional care through foodservice management.


    What Does This Mean for Healthcare? 

    Through the Dietitian Growth & Retention Initiative, Sodexo Healthcare has taken multiple actions to retain, grow, and attract highly skilled clinical nutrition professionals. The most significant action is the evolution of how we lead clinical dietitians through the Clinical Nutrition Professional Career Ladder. Sodexo clinical dietitians have been advocating for a career ladder for many years. The Healthcare Nutrition Leadership Team will continue to lead solution development that address workforce gaps.  



    By extending education requirements, new RD recruits will be slower to market, at least at first. Essentially, a gap will be created between when the graduate degree requirement is implemented and when these new students will be ready for employment. The additional time and resources required to obtain a graduate degree may be prohibitive to some, thus decreasing the pool of new professionals at a time when the need for RDs in senior living is greater than ever. Remember those 5,900 openings each year: who will fill those? 

    Progressing toward a career as a registered dietitian seems straightforward, yet the looming question is less around “how to meet new requirements” and more around “how will changes impact the field in a practical sense?” Many dietetic and HR managers are concerned – and so are hospital and senior living administration. 

    Higher education levels typically mean higher salaries, but many care facilities are struggling financially already – will they be able to afford these higher-priced dietitians? And if fresh-out-of-school dietitians are commanding more money, what does this mean to RDs who have been faithfully working for years at a lower salary? 

    There's good news! Though these questions will likely remain unanswered for years, one tenet is clear: RDs will soon be among the most educated healthcare professionals in senior living communities, and the smartest administrators will take advantage of this shift to maximize the value a dietitian adds to residents’ lives. And Sodexo is here to help bridge that gap. 

    Contact us today