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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

HEALTH CONNECTION

Food for thought

By David Chilton
Special to The Sun


Last year the Dieticians of Canada website advertised more than 250 job vacancies, but only 60 of them were filled. In other words, there's a shortage of dieticians -- and other nutrition professionals -- that has to be addressed.


Fortunately, the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has stepped in and funded a program that will speed up the integration of dieticians trained abroad so they can qualify to practice in the province.

Nava Israel, project director at Ryerson University in Toronto, where the program gets under way this September, says funding has been secured for two years and then the program is expected to become self-sufficient.

Phil Schalm, program director, community services, in the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson, says at the end of two years he expects the initiative for dieticians will take its cues from the midwifery program. That means it will support itself through a combination of tuition fees, shared expenses and the marketing of its expertise to organizations and individuals outside the university.

The Internationally Educated Dieticians Pre-registration Program (IDPP) will have three intakes in the next 24 months -- this September, next January and in September 2006, Israel says. The first class will have 25 "candidates" for certification with the next two classes having 30 each.

"The program is intended to serve the candidates -- we don't call them students because they're not (students), they're candidates for registration. It serves the purpose of registration with the College (of Dieticians of Ontario) and aims at helping an internationally educated dietician to find his or her place in the Canadian market," says Israel, a dietician herself with 15 years experience in her former home and a doctorate from Technion -- the Israel Institute of Technology.

That means language training, instruction in interpersonal communications, advanced Canadian dietetics, prior learning assessment and a practicum placement under the supervision of an accredited dietician, Israel says.

One day a week

The program requires candidates to attend Ryerson full time one day a week for four months, then to spend the next 12 weeks full time completing a practicum, at which time they will be eligible to write the College of Dieticians of Ontario certification exam.

Although the focus of the IDPP program is on dieticians trained abroad, Israel says it's also open to Canadian trained practitioners who have left the profession and want to return, or others who education is incomplete.

Israel says the first three classes will not have to pay tuition fees or pay for books. Their only expenses will be personal -- travel, child care and so on. She estimates there have been 70 to 80 applicants for candidacy in the program and more are welcome to apply. Some applications have come in from dieticians overseas who intend to emigrate here.

Up to 25% of applicants are men, Israel says, with the majority being women in their 30s and 40s. The two largest groups to apply so far come from India and Iran. Schalm adds one applicant taught in the nutrition faculty of a university in Kenya, and there have been inquiries from U.S. dieticians who also need to go through a qualification process to practice here. What the program -- and the profession -- wants is a pool of dieticians whose origins match the diversity of the people they serve, Israel says, adding, "Eating is so much more than food."

Entry-level dieticians working in public facilities can expect to earn between $20 and $25 an hour, Israel says, with more senior staff earning up to $40 an hour. In private practice dieticians can command as much as $100 an hour, a sum which should give anyone food for thought.



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