Report Title

Do Physicians Perceive the Roles of Nutritionists and Registered Dietitian Nutritionists as Different?

Collective Title

Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics Research Reports 2020


Background: Dietitians are still divided on whether to use the credential Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). The option for dietitians to utilize RDN gained support in a 2013 joint committee meeting. The ambiguity between the terms dietitian and nutritionist leave many individuals unable to discern between the two. The opportunity for dietitians to treat greater quantities of patients is influenced by physicians’ understanding of dietitians’ roles and the public's understanding of services they provide.

Objective: To determine how the terms dietitian and nutritionist are understood and referred to in the healthcare setting and whether RD or RDN better communicates their role and services to physicians and the public.

Design: This mixed-methods study utilized Qualtrics Survey Software to obtain anonymous responses from physicians on a 10-multiple choice quantitative question survey, including one qualitative free response question and demographic characteristics.

Participants: Loma Linda University (LLU) Alumni, 21 years of age or older, practicing within the United States with an email maintained by LLU Health, Office of Advancement.

Main outcomes: Physicians’ knowledge of roles of Nutritionists versus RDN’s including their use of the titles interchangeably.

Statistics: Data was analyzed using SPSS Statistics Software version 25.0. The Chi-Square test of independence was used to determine significant relationships between two categorical variables. 3 Results: A total of 40.9% of respondents claimed to use Dietitian and Nutritionist interchangeably, while 48.6% did not and 10.5% were unsure. A total of 52.3% claimed there was a difference, while 32% were unsure and 15.7% identified no difference. A total of 69.2% believed Dietitian was most representative of the role of RD versus Nutritionist.

Conclusions: Results indicate that awareness and knowledge of the services provided by Dietitians and how they differ from Nutritionists is low among physicians. Dietitians should aim to increase awareness of their services through use of the longer credential RDN.

LLU Discipline

Nutrition and Dietetics


Nutrition and Dietetics


School of Allied Health Professions

First Advisor

Georgia Hodgkin

Second Advisor

Gurinder Bains

Third Advisor

Lida Gharibvand

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Dietetics; Nutritionists; Professional Role;


Research Report

Page Count

20 p.

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Research Reports

Collection Website


Loma Linda University. University Libraries.