Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Are pharmacists the new dietitians?



The other day I was in a grocery store when a recording came over the PA system encouraging customers to speak to the in-store pharmacist about making healthy food choices. Naturally, I was like “what the fuck??”. People wonder why dietitians are so defensive of our profession. This. This sort of thing is exactly why. Because everyone seems to think that they’re qualified to dole out nutrition advice despite the fact that dietitians are the only professionals who spend over four years studying nutrition in university and must indefinitely continue our education to maintain our licensure.

It’s not cool of the chain to be asking pharmacists to provide dietary counselling. If you want to offer that service, hire yourselves some damn dietitians. It’s also not cool of the pharmacists to accept that added responsibility.

Yes, pharmacists are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to medications and they can be hugely helpful in advising customers about potential drug-nutrient interactions regarding medications that customers are taking. They more often than not, likely have a greater knowledge about nutrients in food than your average person. However, none of this equips them with the expertise to provide nutrition counselling.

The scope of practice for pharmacists in Canada contains no mention of nutrition or dietary counselling. Store owners may not know that this service is outside the scope of practice for pharmacists. Therefore, I believe that the responsibility lies with the pharmacists on-staff to let the company know that they are should not be providing this service to their customers. As allied health professionals they should recognize the limitations of their own scope of practice and defer to RDs in matters of nutrition counselling.

When I worked in a grocery store we had an in-store dietitian as well as pharmacists on-staff and everyone worked together to provide customers with the best service possible. Pharmacists have enough to do without having to get into nutrition counselling with customers, which, when done appropriately, can be quite time-consuming. Do you really want to wait longer to pick up your prescription? Setting aside the issue of expertise, do pharmacists really have the time to devote to counselling customers on nutrition? Let dietitians, who are actually trained to provide individualized dietary advice, provide this service so that pharmacists can focus on their own area of expertise.

Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people see food and nutrition from a different perspective and understand that nutrition and health are not necessarily a result of personal choice.

6 thoughts on “Are pharmacists the new dietitians?

  1. Relying on pharmacists to do the job of registered dietitians is absolutely unacceptable. And, as you say, if it’s outside of their scope of practice, that could be a huge liability for the store.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is absolutely unacceptable and it makes me angry/worried about the future of the RD profession. What do you think we can do to fix problems like this? Is there any way you think things like this can be prevented? How (and should) we be calling out people for doing things dietitians are supposed to be doing?
    People are pretending to be “nutritionists” everywhere; this is by no means a consolidated problem. I know someone who became a “beach body coach” in just a few weeks and has clients that go to her for nutritional advice! This worries me. Please do not pretend to be a nutritionist if you have not endured six semesters of chemistry at a collegiate level. Dietetics is a complex subject that requires extensive training.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good question Dena. It’s hard because we’re regulated so people can file complaints about us if we practice out of scope or inappropriately but there’s no means of recourse when unqualified individuals decide to be “nutritionists”. With other healthcare professionals we might be able to file complaints with their licencing bodies but I don’t know if anything would come of it. Might be worth trying if we know someone specific is practicing out of scope. Also, continuing to make the public aware that RDs are the most qualified source of nutrition information and educating about how to tell the difference between credible and false information helps to some extent. We can also advocate for legislation (like what sadly didn’t pass in NY) that would prevent unqualified people (such as “health coaches”) from providing nutrition counselling.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I agree with you, that advocating to the public seems to be a good option at this point. Too many people don’t know the difference between dietitians and nutritionists, and I think if more were aware, SOME of the problem would be solved. I think more than anything else though it’s just frustrating that people are doing our jobs when they should not be :(

        Liked by 3 people

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