I’ve pretty much solidified my final project for the course and as such, I am providing the description of it in this blog entry. I hope to speak to my peers and the instructors tomorrow to get any feedback.
My project is designed to prepare graduate students in the Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise department for ethical career decisions. Many graduate students in this department will be working with research participants or patients in health care settings. As such, it is important to prepare students for a variety of potential ethical decisions. Not only will this project provide a framework for graduate students entering their health-related career paths, but it will also be useful for future graduate students enrolled in the Nutrition Counseling course, which is the class that inspired this project. This project was developed using the ethical guidelines of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Nutrition Counseling is a course that is designed to give graduate-level dietetics students relevant counseling experience. Nutrition counselors meet with clients on a weekly basis to discuss the client’s specific health goals, assessing where the client is currently at and using motivational interviewing to facilitate health behavior change to achieve their nutrition or health goal. During these sessions, personal information is collected pertaining to the client’s health status, family history, and dietary and exercise habits. It is important to keep these health documents confidential, as well as keep the identity of the client private when discussing their case in class. Furthermore, it is also important to act professionally in public places, if a counselor encounters a client. There may be social situations where a counselor is interacting with a client outside of the counseling session and it is important to act ethically and appropriately. This project will discuss how to handle these situations using a lesson plan for students in the course, other related-courses, or for students preparing to enter their health-related career. The lesson plan will include questions for readers, dispersed throughout a handful of short and realistic case studies that will highlight important ethical standards. Current (May 2016) graduate students enrolled in Nutrition Counseling provided real-life scenarios.
I really like the focus of this week’s blog. I think feeling out my personal ethics is a really important part of being in graduate school, but especially preparing for and entering the working force. As young professionals, we are not as familiar with the workings of the working world or the expectations of a company we might be with, so it’s important to use personal ethics to guide us through these somewhat ambiguous moments. It’s interesting to consider normative ethics. I guess I can’t really say I have a single principle that guides my decisions and actions, although now my mind is kind of churning to come up with one. Usually in most situations, if I’m not sure what to do, I tell myself to be honest. This guiding ethic applies to most situations but there are some situations that it might not…so I’ll definitely be thinking about this over the next few weeks. It seems like conflicting normative ethics contribute to the controversy inherent in applied ethics. As a future health care professional, I am sure I will run up against many issues pertaining to medical ethics, especially since we have discussed these frequently in my undergraduate and graduate coursework.
I get really frustrated by the idea of people using Koofers. Someone mentioned in last week’s blog that exceptional students can no longer stand out in the college classroom and it’s because of technology like Koofers. The CEO even said in the article that it evens the playing field. I don’t think that’s a good thing in academia because memorizing the answers to a previous test does NOT help you in the long run. This environment is meant to foster growth and learning and challenge students to be more qualified for their careers. On the flip side, I do believe professors have an obligation to be familiar with the content on sites like Koofers and change their exams when needed, to avoid situations like the one in the Physics department. The professor handled it according to his own personal ethics and as he said, it is truly a learning moment.
I could really relate to the video “A Vision of Students Today.” During undergrad, I would sit in classes that did not interest me and multitask the entire period. It always left me with a sense of guilt but also with a sense of anger that I felt like I had no other options because I was not learning anything from the instructor’s lecture. Luckily, I had the chance to transfer into a major that truly resonated with me on a personal level, HNFE – dietetics. Yet, I still had to sit through classes which were supposed to provide me with a well-rounded background in addition to my science courses, but ended up being just another check in the box. I have only had one class like this in graduate school…it reminded me how frustrating the system can be. I had to be there for 3 hours…for attendance purposes…but I gleaned nothing from the lecture and spent a few hours outside of class each week TEACHING MYSELF.
While it seems easy to focus on the bleak perspective of the system, there is also a lot of change occurring that provides promise for the future. I have taken a handful of life-changing courses; these courses were designed to engage students…giving us the confidence to speak in front of others, the skills to summarize our thoughts succinctly, and the information to be successful both in the course and BEYOND the classroom. You know what these courses had in common? Innovative and creative minded instructors, who were approachable and encouraged us to think outside the box. They weren’t afraid to do that hard thing and go against the norm. They didn’t hide behind PowerPoints and they didn’t ask a question and answer it right away…they used real-life activities in class and waited and prodded us to truly think and talk amongst ourselves. The projects we did allowed us to be creative and didn’t provide an endless list of guidelines. One of my first classes that challenged me in more ways than tests and mindless assignments was an Honors Course called “From Memex to Youtube.” The class was taught by Gardner Campbell and is one of my only early undergraduate classes I actually REMEMBER. We talked about technology and how it can change the face of education if used interactively. The class was engaging, involving very complex discussions and projects. It put me outside of my comfort zone and demanded me to think independently
These are the instructors that will change the system. However, there’s not enough of these instructors to teach to the masses…because another commonality among my most rewarding classes was the small class size. This is the biggest issue with our classrooms today…and it desperately needs to be addressed…but how? It will take years for these innovative-minded instructors to make a large enough change to impact the way universities do things, but the optimist in me believes this wheel is starting to turn.
I am very familiar with my discipline’s code of ethics, as our instructors have exposed us to the document numerous times, as well as enforced the expectations throughout undergraduate coursework. As a graduate student, I have also had the privilege to work under a dietitian and take classes taught by dietitians as well. The Code of Ethics for the Profession of Dietetics values honesty, integrity, and fairness. As dietetics practitioners, we are to conduct ourselves professionally and help the field move in a direction that benefits clients, the public, and the profession. We are expected to report violations to our Code of Ethics.
As an undergraduate student, I remember reading this document for the first time and being very surprised that it actually APPLIED to me. This code applies to practicing dietitians and dietetic technicians as well as all members of the American Dietetic Association (that’s me). I don’t think students realize that they are expected to adhere to these codes, despite student status. This is especially pertinent to those of us who are serving as student nutrition counselors as well.
Another part of this document that caught by eye was a statement about how dietetics practitioners should not endorse products in a misleading way. This is becoming increasingly important for dietitians to keep in mind with the nutrition information overload online. A lot of times, “foodie” instagrams or blogs will get sponsored by a company and if the dietitian practitioner promotes a product in a false way…there can be repercussions.
Another really important ethics guideline for my field is interpreting controversial information without personal bias. This is important when clients reveal information about themselves that the dietitian might not support or understand. However, we are still expected to maintain objectivity throughout the nutrition care process.
I think my discipline is doing a great job at upholding professional standards in the field of nutrition. There is a lot of nutrition information to sift through these days, as a lot of individuals claim to be knowledgeable on the internet. I would say, if anyone ever has serious questions about nutrition to seek the guidance of a dietitian because with our training and ethical foundation, we will not mislead you!