Professional Standards and Code of Conduct
Members and Accredited Practising Dietitians (APDs) are required to abide by the following professional standards:
Dietitians Australia Codes of Professional Conduct and Statements of Ethical Practice
- Code of Professional Conduct – for members with Australian recognised dietetic qualifications, and non-members with APD status (March 2013)
- Code of Professional Conduct – for members without Australian recognised dietetic qualifications and non-member Accredited Nutritionists (Oct 2011)
- Statement of Ethical Practice – For members with Australian recognised dietetic qualifications and non-members with APD status(Dec 2014)
- Statement of Ethical Practice – for members without Australian recognised dietetic qualifications and non-member Accredited Nutritionists(Oct 2011)
Consulting a dietitian? Your rights and responsibilities
What is a testimonial?
Testimonials are examples, case studies or quotes from people who have used a service that promote the person or company delivering the service. An example of a testimonial would be an APD placing a success story from a client on their business website with information such as, ‘My APD John Smith helped me to lose fifteen kilos and now I feel great’.
Can dietitians use testimonials to advertise their services?
Members of DA cannot use testimonials to promote their clinical services, including on social media. Using testimonials for the promotion of clinical services is against DA’s Code of Professional Conduct and Statement of Ethical Practice.
As a self-regulated profession, DA aims to maintain or exceed the standards and requirements for registered professions. These standards have been developed by individual boards governed by the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA) in many aspects of practice.
“Under the National Accreditation and Registration Scheme (the National Scheme), registered health practitioners must adhere to the advertising requirements of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law). The advertising provisions of the National Law apply to any person who advertises a regulated health service, including registered health practitioners, non-registered health practitioners, individuals and bodies corporate. Regulated health service refers to a service provided by, or usually provided by, a health practitioner.”
The National Law sets out advertising that is not acceptable. This includes:
- Making misleading claims
- Offering an inducement, such as a gift or discount (unless the relevant terms and conditions are also included)
- Using testimonials
- Creating unreasonable expectations of beneficial treatment
- Encouraging the indiscriminate or unnecessary use of a service.
These advertising and testimonial self-assessment tools by AHPRA may help you comply with the National Law when advertising your health services. AHPRA have also developed examples of compliant and non-compliant advertisements common to regulated health professions. Some FAQs about advertising and the National Law can be found here and this page outlines what healthcare practitioners and healthcare providers need to know about advertising.
I may have accidentally broken the advertising requirements, what are the consequences?
While there is no financial penalty applicable for dietitians, DA views an advertising breach as a breach of the Code of Professional Conduct and Statement of Ethical Practice – which all members have formally agreed to abide by. If it is brought to DA’s attention that testimonials are being used, initially there will be a warning. Once a non- compliant advertisement or website has been fixed or removed, no further action is likely to be taken. But if persistent breaches occur, or a member of the public makes a formal complaint, disciplinary procedures will be pursued.
What if someone else publishes a testimonial about my services without my knowledge?
A breach includes a testimonial that another person has placed online, for example, on your website, Facebook or Twitter account. The owner of the account is responsible for what is placed there and is considered in breach if they have not monitored content and taken steps to remove the content.
I have seen some advertising that does not seem to be within the boundaries of the National Law. What should I do?
Anyone with concerns about an APD, including advertising which appears to contravene the National Law, should notify DA. DA rely on the public and members to bring their concerns to DA’s attention, as advertising, particularly web-based advertising can be difficult to monitor. Please contact DA National Office with your concerns.
What are other ways to promote my services as an APD?
- Have an appealing, well-designed website with maximised search potential
- Ensure you have a listing on ‘Find an APD’ on the DA website and other relevant sites
- Visit local doctors
- Participate in local events (e.g. Smart Eating Week events)
- Develop high-quality branding and logos
- Write for the local newspaper
- Offer promotional activities
- Work with your Interest Group to develop a Role Statement
What about reviews of resources?
A review of a professional resource by a health professional can be published and made available to other health professionals. This is not called a testimonial.
What about practice-based research results?
Impersonal results if based on internal research or audit which can be substantiated by strong evidence of your client population outcomes are considered a report of results rather than testimonials.
What if I am not sure?
If you are not sure whether or not your advertising content may be an offence under the National Law you might consider getting your own legal advice before proceeding to use that material. Consulting with colleagues or professional associations may also be helpful but should not be relied on in place of legal advice. Regretfully DA are unable to provide advice or approval of advertising content other than by these guidelines and FAQ’s based on advice provided by AHPRA.
For more information visit the AHPRA website.
Dietitians should only provide advice about alternate therapies if there is documented scientific peer-reviewed evidence of its effectiveness and it is within the scope of dietetic practice. If a dietitian provides advice about alternative therapies, their client must be informed that an APD always adheres to evidence-based practice. For APDs with dual qualifications in an alternative therapy, any advice based on the alternative therapy that is not in line with the evidence-based practice expected from an APD, requires a declaration to the client they are not providing a service as an APD.
Any written material which is provided to patients must also comply with the above requirements and the use of the APD credential on non-evidence based material outside the scope of dietetic practice is not appropriate.
The problem with using the term ‘specialist’ is that there is no recognised procedure for obtaining such a title. ‘Specialist’ implies a further qualification / competency, as is used in the medical profession, which then becomes a public expectation about that practitioner. Dietetics does not have the systems in place for specialist training in an area at this time. Therefore the DAA Board have disallowed the use of the term specialist and encourage the Advanced APD credential. Uses of such terms as ‘Diabetes Dietitian’ or ‘Oncology Dietitian’ (used in position descriptions in many hospital settings) are not seen as breaches of the Code.
The Advanced APD credential is an alternative way of recognising advanced practice. Dietitians who have participated in the APD Program for at least five years may submit a portfolio of evidence for assessment as an Advanced APD (AdvAPD). DA has chosen this path given the relatively small numbers of practitioners working in some areas of practice and the practicalities of managing a specialist recognition scheme. APDs may have an area in which they are highly competent professionally, but the AdvAPD credential also considers leadership, research and evaluation, education and reflection.
Find out more about the Advanced APD Program.
For more information about Registered Professions and the use of the term ‘specialist’, visit the AHPRA website.