Challenges faced by public sector dietitians in Gauteng Province

Matlhafuna, Thabang Pamela
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Background: Human resources in health has been identified as one of the current challenges facing health systems in South Africa. Dietitians in South Africa are a reflection of this. There is limited research on South Africa dietitians about their experiences and what motivates or encourages them to stay in the public sector. Aim: The main aim of the study is to understand the current challenges faced by dietitians working in the public sector with the view to formulate recommendations for the retention of this workforce. Method: The study used a qualitative method of in-depth interviews with dietitians and policy makers. A thematic content analysis was used to identify key themes. Results: Dietitians pointed out that they experience challenges in the work settings. These challenges which impacts on their motivation included; the lack of understanding of the role of a dietitian by other health professional, low salary levels, limited opportunities to further their careers in the field, inadequate infrastructure and limited availability of tools required in the work place, high patient loads, and limited supervision and support. Despite the expressed constraints the perspective from the policymakers was positive. They highlighted that recognition of the profession has improved. However, they reported dissatisfaction with the current caliber of dietitians. Conclusion: Although, there are positive aspects reported about the work experiences of dietitians in hospitals in Gauteng, there remains a range of factors which contribute negatively to their motivation and retention in the public service. The study indicates that these factors need to be addressed to maintain and increase the positive gains seen by the profession.
A research report submitted to the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Public health, Johannesburg September, 2013