Scholarly article on topic 'Initiation and Development of the First Undergraduate Degree Program “Nutrition and Dietetics” in Romania'

Initiation and Development of the First Undergraduate Degree Program “Nutrition and Dietetics” in Romania Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Lorena Filip, Doina Miere

Abstract In most European countries, the profession of dietitian is an essential link in healthcare. Romania is one of the few countries in the world where this profession was minimized, until recently and where the specialists in this field were often people without appropriate specialized training. This paper presents the steps taken to initiate higher education in dietetics in Romania as the first stage in the development of specialists in nutrition and dietetics and the evolution of this new program from authorization to date. The dietitian in Romania should benefit from training in line with the European requirements.

Academic research paper on topic "Initiation and Development of the First Undergraduate Degree Program “Nutrition and Dietetics” in Romania"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 89 (2013) 781 - 785

2nd Cyprus International Conference on Educational Research, (CY-ICER 2013)

Initiation and development of the first undergraduate degree program "Nutrition and Dietetics" in Romania

Lorena Filip a, Doina Miere b*

a Department of Environmental Chemistry and Hygiene, University of Medicine and Pharmacy Iuliu Hatieganu " , 6

Pasteur Street, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Abstract

In most European countries, the profession of dietitian is an essential link in healthcare. Romania is one of the few countries in the world where this profession was minimized, until recently and where the specialists in this field were often people without appropriate specialized training. This paper presents the steps taken to initiate higher education in dietetics in Romania as the first stage in the development of specialists in nutrition and dietetics and the evolution of this new program from authorization to date. The dietitian in Romania should benefit from training in line with the European requirements.

© 2013TheAuthors. Published byElsevierLtd.

Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Huseyin Uzunboylu, Near East University, Faculty of Education, Cyprus

Keywords: "Nutrition and Dietetics", dietitian, undergraduate studies, Romania;

Introduction

"Nutrition and Dietetics" is an old science, and Hippocrates himself (460-377 BC), "the father of medicine", was among the first who established the relationship between diet and health. Although this idea is old, the scientific grounds and dietary professionalization are relatively recent. The dietitian profession exists in Japan since the 1920s; it began in France in the 1950s (1949), so that this profession is in full progress at international level. However, the profession of dietitian is just in its beginning in Romania. The dietitian is the specialist in food and nutrition. The international definition of the profession is "A dietitian is a person qualified in Nutrition and

Corresponding author: Doina Miere. E-mail: doina.miere@gmail.com

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Huseyin Uzunboylu, Near East University, Faculty of Education, Cyprus doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.08.932

Dietetics recognized by national authorities applying the nutrition science in food and in the education of individuals and groups of individuals in good health or in sickness."

The dietitian may exercise his profession in various fields and may occupy different positions. In every country where the dietetics school is developed and the profession of dietitian plays an important role on the labor market, the dietitians are represented nationally by national professional organizations. At European level, the national associations of dietitians from the European countries are united within the EFAD (European Federation of Associations of Dietitians), which is, in its turn, a member of ICDA (International Confederation of Dietetic Associations).

As an employee, the dietitian is found most frequently in hospitals or in other health units, where he occupies a concrete position, using his specific skills and knowledge in applying the nutrition science. These specialists are called dietitian clinicians, and they apply the diet therapy as a means of treatment in various pathologies, provide dietary advice to patients and their families, and contribute to nutrition education of healthy individuals or patients. Moreover, there are a considerable number of dietitians who practice other specialties [3,5], enabling them to conduct their work in private practices, at customers' homes, for people education, in the food industry, in pharmaceutical companies, in military or school restaurants, in the catering industry, in food quality control, etc.

Analysis of the situation in Romania

Until 2007, there was no proper school of dietetics in Romania and therefore we could not speak of the existence of the profession of dietitian on the labour market, much less of a professional organization of dietitians. Until 2010, the Classification of Occupations in Romania (COR) mentioned the profession of dietitian as an equivalent of dietetics and nutrition assistant, included in COR in major group 3 - Technicians and associate professionals, sub-major 322, minor group 3223 - dietetics and nutrition assistants (dietitians) and chef [6]. On the labour market, the dietetics assistants only worked in hospitals and actually were general practice nurses specialized in nutrition and dietetics "at work". In the 2000s, post-secondary schools or colleges operated sporadically in different parts of the country with very limited operating periods (1-2 classes of graduates), which produced a small number of dietetics assistants. During the same period, persons with backgrounds foreign to nutrition and dietetics but who considered themselves self-taught, or who attended a few week trainings held by various organizations, sought to fill in the "gap" by calling themselves "nutritionists" and intervened with tips without any scientific grounds in people education.

Given this context of an absolutely indispensable profession on the labour market, the establishment of a high school for dietetics became imperative in Romania. Thus, in 2006-2007, Professor Doina MIERE, PhD and Associate Professor Lorena FILIP, the teaching staff of the Chemistry and Environment Hygiene disciplines at "Iuliu Ha^ieganu" University of Medicine and Pharmacy of Cluj-Napoca initiated the creation of the high school of dietetics in Romania, as a first step in the production of thoroughly trained specialists, who should meet the needs in this area. Starting in 2008, this study program was also authorized by other universities of Medicine and Pharmacy in Romania (Targu Mure§, Ia§i, Timi^oara).

Establishment of the line of study "Nutrition and Dietetics" in Romania

The action of establishing the line of study "Nutrition and Dietetics" at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy "Iuliu Ha^ieganu", with the structure of a Bachelor's degree program for three years, which could be continued with cycle 2 (master) and 3 (PhD), is based on the following reasons: 1) people's need for accurate information and advice in this area, people's concern for food quality and safety; 2) absence of a training program of this kind in the Romanian university offer; 3) absence of staff specialized in the field, ready for high quality. Assistance in the prevention and treatment through diet; 4) proficiency requirements in the state and private networks for better services; 5) diversification of options for high school graduates within the Romanian education reform; 6) concern and proficiency of the teaching staff - pharmacists and physicians - of "Iuliu Ha^ieganu" UMF

for thorough training of specialists in this field; 7) increased interest and demand of the population for services offered by the dietitian with a BA in EU countries and in the world.

In setting up the curriculum for the undergraduate cycle, educational programs of prestigious universities the main model was the University of Valencia, where such a program already operated successfully as a line of study within the Faculty of Pharmacy. This was made possible by an old and most distinguished collaboration with the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Valencia.

In drawing up the preliminary authorization file, the ARACIS rules (Romanian Agency for Quality Assurance in Higher Education) were taken into account, and the new undergraduate degree program was proposed as line of study within the Faculty of Pharmacy. Following the visit made by ARACIS Expert Committee, and the subsequent steps, a favorable opinion was given for a preliminary authorization of the new line of study. Government Decision no 635/2008 [8] on the educational offer for the academic year 2008-2009 also included the line of study "Nutrition and Dietetics" at "Iuliu Hatieganu" University of Medicine and Pharmacy of Cluj-Napoca, so in 2008 "Iuliu Hatieganu" University of Medicine and Pharmacy organized the first admission exam for this line of study. In 2008-2009, the two initiator teachers took care of promoting this line of study in high-schools, using leaflets and posters. Moreover, the new line of study was promoted on the university website. In the following years, the line of study was promoted by newsletters sent to the management of high-schools from several counties in Transylvania and by using posters, distributing leaflets and making presentations to pupils. All these actions were carried out with the involvement of the students in Nutrition and Dietetics.

Discussion

The undergraduate study program "Nutrition and Dietetics" of the Faculty of Pharmacy in Cluj-Napoca was organized and operates according to the Bologna structure [9,10], based on a curriculum with six semesters over three years, with 30 credits per semester, with a total of 180 credits (ECTS) [11]. The total number of hours of organized activity is 2162 hours of which 1194 hours of practical training, 924 hours of compulsory courses, 44 hours of elective courses and a total of 20 to 28 hours per week. The curriculum includes the following subjects: 1st Year: Anatomy, Biochemistry and Clinical Laboratory, Applied Chemistry (Inorganic, Organic), Food Chemistry, Nutrition, Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics, Behaviour Sciences and Medical Psychology, Food Technology, Medical Informatics and Biostatistics, Modern Languages, Physical Training and Sports, Methods of Analytical Control - optional, History and Culture of Nutrition - optional. 2nd Year: Dietetics and Diet Products, Physiology and Physiopathology, Semiology and Internal Medicine, Mother and Child Nutrition, Nutrition for the Elderly, Immunology and Allergology, Microbiology and Parasitology, Food Toxicology, Culinary Technology and Chemistry, Hygiene, Pharmacology, Internship, New Foodstuff - optional, Food Economy and Management -optional, Legislation and Professional Ethics - optional. 3rd Year: Diet Therapy, Nutritional Pathology, Endocrinology, Public Health, Food Additives, Research Methodology, Phytotherapy, Internship, Internship for drafting the Bachelor's Degree Dissertation, Clinic Internship, Hydrology - optional, Chemical Engineering -Basics - optional

The teaching staffs of the Faculty of Pharmacy and have the Faculty of Medicine of UMF "Iuliu Hatieganu" Cluj-Napoca provides teaching. Curricula are constantly updated and supplemented according to the European standards, the national and European legislation on health and social policies. The recommendations in recent years of the European (EFAD) and international (ICDA) professional organizations on standards of education and occupation, and the codes of ethics and good practices adopted in 2007 resulted in 2009 in very substantial changes in the curricula of the line of study Nutrition and Dietetics in the European universities used by us as a model, which generated the need for constant change in our case too. In this respect, our collaboration with European universities itself for developing student mobility based on ECTS - for example the University of Valencia, Erasmus - requires a constant correlation between curricula. Moreover, curricula need to be continuously correlated with the objectives of this specialization in line with the national and international perspectives in the field. The coordination of the activities under the new program is provided by the teachers who initiated the program with the support of the Dean's Office of the Faculty of Pharmacy. The coordination consists in the supervision of the

teaching activity and of students' involvement in research activities and in providing tutoring activities. Working with students is close, collaborative and student initiative is very much encouraged. Students won two grants of the competition organized by the University of Medicine and Pharmacy "Iuliu Hatieganu" from Cluj-Napoca in 2011 to encourage research among students for the 2011-2012 academic years from Nutrition and Dietetics.

Moreover, the initiator teaching staff founded an association - "Association for Nutrition and Health", where students are engaged in various activities aimed at contributing to their vocational training [12].

The number of students in Nutrition and Dietetics varies between 25 and 40 per academic year. It should be mentioned that students in this line of study generally show a keen interest and much passion for the profession they chose and are very active and involved in promoting this specialization and in making project suggestions.

The first generation of dietitians graduated the Bachelor's degree program in Nutrition and Dietetics of "Iuliu Hatieganu" University of Medicine and Pharmacy of Cluj-Napoca in 2011. Our students and graduates have always been guided, advised and supported in promoting their profession, in organizing as professional body, in getting involved in providing the legal framework of the profession of dietitian and in becoming members of the European Federation of Associations of Dietitians in Europe (EFAD). The graduates established their professional organization - the Association of Dietitians in Romania, which became a member of EFAD in 2012.

Concerning the curriculum, the ARACIS standards provide for a temporary operation of a new program of undergraduate studies for three classes of graduates, and only then the accreditation of the program can be applied for. Given that in 2013 we will have the third class of graduates, we are interested in developing a curriculum tailored on the recommendations of EFAD by the time of accreditation, which should ensure the training of dieticians at the level of the European countries with tradition in this field. Improving and adapting the curriculum will be carried out in collaboration with the students and graduates in dietetics. Presently, the interest of high school graduates for this profession is growing and despite the economic crisis that creates real problems on the labour market, our graduates manage to come off and to practice their profession in a satisfactory number, with some of them to be found in the clinical area, in the public or private sector, others in companies specialized in nutrition or in commercial activities. A small number have their own business - private practices of nutrition and dietetics and fitness clubs. Most graduates are interested in continuing their studies within master programs, and some of them aim at a research career.

Conclusions

The Nutrition and Dietetics program of studies established at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy "Iuliu Hatieganu" from Cluj-Napoca is the beginning of dietetics higher education in Romania, a project closely taken over by other universities of Medicine and Pharmacy in the country. The program is designed on the Bologna structure and takes into account the tradition in the field of European models. We are concerned about the need to develop a prestigious school of nutrition and dietetics in Romania in line with the European requirements, to establish the legal framework for this profession in Romania and to provide jobs for current and future graduates

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