09 Jul 2021

Julie Taplin, Study Day and Events Coordinator for the Diabetes Specialist Group, reflects on the work which has led to the creation of the 2021 BDA Diabetes Specialist Group Dietetic Competency Framework for Dietitians Working in the Area of Diabetes.

It was 2018 and the BDA Specialist Diabetes Group Committee were sat at a table bouncing around ideas for an MSc level module specifically around dietary management of diabetes. Thrown into the mix was the need to update the 2011 Career and Competency Framework, so that the aims and objectives of this potential module would focus on delivering appropriate and up-to-date knowledge and skills.

A working party of dietitians, including some that had been involved in the previous 2011 edition, came together to work out how the new framework would look and what it would include.

Some significant updates agreed on were: 

It felt like a battle at times to complete it!

The original project lead had to change roles after taking a new job, along with the demands family life.

We found that creating knowledge, skills and examples for each level was proving a lot trickier than just having a tick box to say a person could do (or not do) certain things. 

Despite trying to simplify the document, only having dietetic competencies and limiting the scope to post-registration dietitians, we soon discovered it was still going to be a pretty weighty document.

These issues all had a dent on motivation.

But the highs were also numerous.

After the initial working party provided the key structure and knowledge checks for each section, a small working party was formed. It is in these groups that you truly discover your colleagues' passion and strengths.

We also realised that we were going to need external help, so we successfully made a business case application from the BDA. We used this money to pay two freelance dietitians (WENutrition), who specialise in diabetes, to help in areas where we were stuck and to make suggestions for content and layout. This really gave the project a boost and was well worth every penny.

Then came the review from our members. We gratefully had several members (and a student) come forward and offer to read through it. Over a few more weeks we gradually incorporated their valuable comments.

The last step was to make the document look attractive and easy to use. We again used the business case money and went to an outside agency (Projekt Rising) who could not have been more helpful in fulfilling what we wanted on quite a tight budget.  

It turns out that a competency framework is a high-demand document! During the process of updating, I ran out of fingers and toes to count how many times they were requested by individuals to help benchmark their workforce and services against.

By using the BDA levels system we hope that our new framework has moved away from being a rigid yes/no document. We hope it allows more flexibility for services and individuals to work out what they need in order to improve their patient or service user needs, whether they are working in the private or public sector. Aligning with the BDA also enables a synergy to be made when looking at devising a job description or development plan for an individual. Being able to individualise the document became very important to us as it progressed.

We are very grateful to our close working partners from Diabetes UK for endorsing the work. A final huge thank you to all those involved in the process of writing and reviewing this huge and influential piece of work - please do read the acknowledgment section at the end of the document.

I guess now we better get on with that MSc module!

The 2021 BDA Diabetes Specialist Group Dietetic Competency Framework for Dietitians Working in the Area of Diabetes can be used by any dietitian working with people with diabetes. It is not just for specialist roles.

The full PDF, interactive PDF and framework summary are all available to access and download via the Diabetes Specialist Group here.

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Julie Taplin

Study Day and Events Coordinator, Diabetes Specialist Group