Journal of Nutrition and Dietetic Practice


The Impact Role-Playing Sessions have on Undergraduate Dietetic Students’ Counseling Abilities: A Qualitative Study

Author(s): Katie Horrell, Jeanette Andrade

Objective: Dietitians need to properly communicate both verbally and non-verbally for clients to change their dietary behaviors. Educators can teach dietetic students these communication skills via an active learning approach, specifically through role-playing. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to assess undergraduate dietetic students’ counseling skills through role-playing sessions via a qualitative counseling tool. 
Methods: A qualitative study was conducted at a Mid-Western University in Fall 2016 in a nutrition therapy class. Each student (2 males, 6 females) counseled a graduate student (i.e. the patient) for a total of 5 sessions. These case studies were based on a chronic condition. Students were informed how to counsel at the beginning of the course, but not guided throughout the course on how to fine-tune their counseling abilities. Sessions (n=40) were tape recorded and verbatim transcripts of each session were coded following a content analysis methodology. Counseling abilities were identified as positive, neutral, or negative based on the 9-item qualitative counseling tool. 
Results: Students improved on rapport building, prioritizing information, and reducing the use of nutrition jargon and remained positively consistent on eye contact, body language, relevant scope of questions, and preparedness. Students did not improve on empathy or crosscultural communication. 
Conclusions: The evidence supports that students who are exposed to live, interactive counseling sessions will improve their counseling abilities. Although, emphasis on empathy and cultural competency is needed.

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