By Courtney Lee, MS, RDN, CDN, CLT, CFCS
As a clinical dietitian, you may feel like quality assurance (QA) isn’t in your wheelhouse. Oh, but it is! If you have ever completed a test tray, made a service recovery, tracked implementation of your nutrition recommendations, or spearheaded an in-service training with your colleagues, you have participated in QA. The good news is, these seemingly run-of-the-mill tasks have colossal benefits for RDs. Let’s learn more.
What is Quality Assurance?
Quality assurance sure sounds fancy, but it’s nothing more than ensuring high standards of care are provided to your patients and residents. And since many QA benchmarks are associated with financial incentives, your participation promotes your value to the interdisciplinary team and the facility as a whole. When RDs can demonstrate that they positively contribute to quality of patient care, customer service, or benchmark targets, they have leverage for promotions, advancements, and raises. (Look at you, climbing the corporate ladder!)
Where to Begin
So, how do you do this as a clinical dietitian? How do you juggle your clinical responsibilities while being a QA queen (or king)?
Find a problem. This is the opposite of looking on the bright side. What bugs you? What do you find yourself saying and repeating every.single.day? What makes you secretly roll your eyes in your office? Choose something you are passionate about and that you feel would make a big impact on clinical care.
Collect some baseline data. Okay, just hear me out. Data collection is the un-glamorous side of QA. But, you have to know where you started so you can track your improvement.
Assemble your troops. Gather your key stakeholders—the people who have a vested interest in your project. Look for leaders who will support (and maybe challenge) you.
Sketch out a plan. This is where the rubber meets the road. There are lots of “best practice” techniques when it comes to QA, many of which have been tailored for healthcare. Use one of these templates to outline your project and guide you through the implementation process. For a full description of QA techniques and examples of projects that might help you get started, check out our self-study webinar, “Quality Assurance for Clinical Dietitians.”
A Dietitian’s Impact on QA
Think about what you could accomplish with this approach! Most importantly, you are improving quality of care by ensuring that patients receive the best nutrition care as part of their medical treatment. You may also discover some cost savings or increased reimbursement along the way. But, don’t stop here! With the data in hand demonstrating all of the awesome work you’ve done, share your results with your clinical nutrition manager, administrator, or foodservice director to show that you (yes, you!) can provide tangible results to your operation.
Courtney Lee, MS, RDN, CDN, CLT, CFCS consults locally with Dietitians On Demand and also has a virtual private practice, Kitchen Nutrition, LLC. Courtney enjoys equipping dietitians and dietetic interns with the tools they need for professional success so they don’t have to learn the hard way. Courtney enjoys baking, running, and hosting friends and family in her home.
Find her on Instagram @yourkitchennutrition.
Dietitians On Demand is a nationwide staffing and recruiting company for registered dietitians, specializing in short-term, temporary and permanent-hire positions in acute care, long term care and food service positions. We’re dedicated to dietitians and helping them enhance their practice and excel in the workplace. Check out our job openings, request your coverage, or visit our store today!