Evidence-based practice: are dietitians willing and able?
Aim: To investigate the extent of involvement by dietitians in publication in peer-reviewed journals, and their willingness and self-perceived ability to undertake work to evaluate their practice and other barriers to this. Methods: A questionnaire was compiled and distributed at the Diamond Jubilee Conference of the British Dietetic Association (BDA) 1996. Results: One hundred and eighty-three questionnaires were returned (37%). Respondents worked in several locations (47% hospital, 27% community, 15% hospital and community) and represented a range of grades (basic 5%, senior 55%, chief and manager 33%). Thirteen per cent of respondents were first author of a paper. Thirty-two per cent of respondents had been involved in publication of a paper or abstract. `Publishers' had been qualified significantly longer than `non-publishers' (P< 0.001). The majority of respondents agreed with statements suggesting that a dietitian should undertake research but `non-publishers' were significantly more likely to agree with statements suggesting that they lacked confidence in their ability (P< 0.001). Time was viewed as a constraint but `publishers' agreed significantly (P< 0.001) less often with the statement that `they felt they couldn't use time for planning a project instead of seeing patients'. Funding was perceived as a barrier by some respondents. Conclusion: Dietitians must increase the evidence-base of their practice in the NHS. This study suggests that they are willing, but not all perceive themselves as able because of perceived skill-level and time constraints. Suggestions are made to address these barriers.