December 4, 2009

Nursing School to offer nutrition degree

Nursing School to offer nutrition degree

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing has established its first non-nursing degree, a Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics, enrolling for fall 2010.

“Increased complexity in health care, the obesity epidemic, the information technology explosion and other factors require fundamental changes in the way we educate health care professionals and the role that registered dietitians play in the process and delivery of health care,” said Linda Norman, D.S.N., R.N., senior associate dean for Academics.

The master's program offers two specialty tracks. The first builds on VUSN's lead in health care informatics by focusing on Nutrition Informatics. One of the newest branches of biomedical informatics, Nutrition Informatics is defined by the American Dietetic Association as retrieving, organizing, storing and using information and data to help individuals, families and communities to solve food and nutrition-related problems.

Applications of this field include incorporating the nutrition care process in the electronic health record, using Web-based systems to develop, implement and monitor nutrition and diet interventions and creating databases to measure nutrition-related health outcomes.

The other specialty track, Nutrition Management in Health Care Systems, develops advanced practice professionals for leadership, management or administrative roles, building on the strength of VUSN's Health Systems Management program for nurses.

For dietitians, the possibilities include newer roles such as chronic disease case managers, community and public health agency administrators, nutrition pharmaceutical and home health agency managers and private practice entrepreneurs.

“It has been projected that the demand for advanced practice dietitians will continue to grow — especially for those who can address the multiple

Heidi Silver, Ph.D., R.D.

Heidi Silver, Ph.D., R.D.

“Further, the last semester of the program includes a practicum-based research experience in the chosen specialty track in which students will complete a project that can contribute to our knowledge of nutrition outcomes.”

The VUSN Master's of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics offers a modified distance learning format which means students do not have to relocate to Nashville to access their professors and colleagues. The flexible format uses both synchronous and asynchronous teaching with a two- to four-day campus visit at the beginning and end of each semester.

In addition, a partnership with Lipscomb University allows Vanderbilt University undergraduates to complete an Undergraduate Certificate in Dietetics prior to entry to the Master's program. And, Lipscomb undergraduates can earn both a bachelor's degree from Lipscomb and a master's degree from Vanderbilt in five years.

“Our program will provide students with the high-quality education for which Vanderbilt is known and embark on an advanced practice career that will improve and expand the delivery of quality nutrition care in health care settings across the nation,” said Silver.

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