In 2012 EFAD defined Professional Practice as the way professionals apply their specific expertise to particular cases and use their experiences systematically to build their expertise. Professional practices are characterised by integrity, competence and accountability.
Through the registration and regulation of a healthcare professional, a professional group can promote and ensure their integrity and competence. Professionalization requires commitment by all healthcare professionals to a Code of Conduct based on ethical values and principles. By being on a public register of competent professionals a healthcare professional an assure the public, other healthcare colleagues, employers, and Governments that the work they undertake is evidence based, safe and competent.
As part of this accountability should a member of the profession not demonstrate professional integrity (e.g. continued professional development, safe or ethical practice) there is a mechanism for regulating the behaviour of the professional e.g. a process of discipline or remedial education.
Regulation is characterised by the following key elements being in place:
- Legal protection of title
- A public searchable list of registered dietitians
- A mechanism for ensuring the continued competence of the dietitian
- A mechanism for reporting and removing the title and recognition of registration due to misconduct
There may be a Regulator for dietitians or in many countries a Competent Authority assumes the role of ‘registration’ of the title of dietitian for those who have undergone a prescribed programme of studies (although these may not meet European Dietetic Competence Standards).
The European Commission currently is emphasising professional mobility in Europe and especially in the area of health.
To make sure that the dietetic profession is a well regulated, safe profession, no matter which country the dietitian is practicing in, it is important that:
- There is a national public register available to check the competence of the dietetic practitioner (or a searchable European database)
- All dietitians are educated and trained to the same standard (therefore practice is comparable across Europe)
- There is a mechanism for reporting incompetence and safeguarding the public from unsafe advice – possibly across Europe