Certified Practicing Nutritionist
A Certified Practicing Nutritionist (CPN) is a tertiary educated, degree qualified, clinically trained Nutritionist (Practicing Nutritionist) whose qualifications have been assessed and accepted as meeting the training and competency standards of the Australasian Association and Register of Practicing Nutritionists.
CPNs are bona fide primary care nutrition practitioners who practise Clinical Nutrition, which includes dietary modification (applied within a Clinical Nutrition/Nutritional Medicine paradigm) and the prescribing of dietary supplements for both nutrient repletion and complex nutritional medicine purposes.
The sector within which clinically trained nutritionists operate is self-regulating – independent and distinct from other forms of self-regulation in the dietary services space – and has been formally recognised within Australian government legislation since at least 1989, via the inclusion of clinically trained nutritionists in the Therapeutics Goods Act.
A CPN should not be confused with a non-clinically trained nutrition scientist (also termed a nutritionist) who will not have undertaken supervised Clinical Nutrition clinical practicum training, in combination with the required clinical skills theory curricular (i.e. pathophysiology, pharmacology, independent clinical examination, independent complex case taking, counselling, and independent Clinical Nutrition / Nutritional Medicine prescribing).
Where do Certified Practicing Nutritionists practise?
Certified Practicing Nutritionists (CPNs) predominantly work in private practice, either independently or within multidisciplinary clinics, including alongside other allied health professionals and Medical Doctors. While referrals are not required to see a CPN (due to CPNs being primary healthcare providers) GPs are able to refer patients to a CPN – as they are able to refer to any allied health professional who holds expertise pertinent to their patient’s needs.
CPNs are recognised by government as eligible for private health insurance rebating, and the profession accordingly has recognition with a range of private health insurance funds.
When should I see a Certified Practicing Nutritionist?
Pathology generally intersects with some form of nutritional biochemistry and metabolism. To this end, there are a wide range of reasons why a person may benefit from consulting a Certified Practicing Nutritionist (CPN). CPNs place a focus on maintaining health, but also support remediation from the common metabolic dysfunctions that drive common health issues and chronic disease states.
For example, while a CPN does not claim to treat cardiovascular disease, they can support cardiovascular health by putting their focus on underlying metabolic factors, such as inflammation and insulin resistance, which are particularly responsive to nutritional medicine intervention – thereby improving the metabolic parameters around the disease, and reducing the disease burden on the client.
In a similar manner, CPNs are trained to apply nutritional support to the following areas:
- Cardiovascular health (as described above)
- Metabolic health
- Endocrine health
- Immunological health
- Gastrointestinal health
- Musculoskeletal health
- Nervous system support
- Skin health
- Food intolerances
- Environmental sensitivities
- Physical performance
What services do Certified Practicing Nutritionists provide?
A CPN is trained to engage with both health and disease, both from the perspective of supporting good health and supporting the remediation of disease states. CPN degree programs contain the combination of pathophysiology training and independent clinical examination, which imbues an intrinsic capacity to assess and monitor wellbeing and identify when referral to other health professionals is required – such as referral to Medical Doctors, Psychologists, Counsellors, and Exercise Physiologists.
CPNs are trained to take a detailed medical case history which can include information on previous medical diagnoses and results of previous pathology tests. A CPN – in a scientific evidence based manner – will use acquired information in conjunction with their own clinical expertise (and any additional pathology testing required) to generate a differential assessment that translates the client’s needs within a nutritional biochemical scientific paradigm. This enables the CPN to identify and construct a customised nutritional medicine intervention program to help the client obtain their health goals. Any novel information or insight gained on emerging pathology is referred to the client’s primary Medical Doctor.
How are Certified Practicing Nutritionists qualified?
In order to practise, the following requirements must be met:
- Complete a minimum of an AARPN approved bachelor degree in Clinical Nutrition / Nutritional Medicine, or minimum of a degree in human nutrition science that has been partnered with AARPN approved clinical-bridging pathways (physically-based, face-to-face on-campus training requirements apply).
- Complete continuing professional development in accordance with the AARPN requirements and work in compliance with the AARPN code of conduct and ethics.
Please note that statements pertaining to nutritionists are often highly generalised.
Generalised statements that refer to ‘nutritionists’ as non-clinical are referring to non-clinically trained nutrition scientists that also use the term nutritionist. These comparative statements should not be interpreted to include clinically trained Certified Practising Nutritionists (CPNs), who have a recognised clinical capacity and apply their distinct professional services within the shared dietary services space.
Clinical Nutrition is a distinct profession that has its origins in the merging of nutrition science and medicine that occurred in the 1950s (hence its other name of Nutritional Medicine). Because Clinical Nutrition includes (in addition to personalised dietary modification) the independent prescribing of therapeutic supplements for nutrient repletion and complex nutritional medicine purposes, clinically trained nutritionists were given Therapeutic Goods Act Schedule 1 advertising exemption in 1989. Section 42AA of the act recognises clinically trained nutritionists as health professionals and this facilitates exemption from advertising rules and regulations within which the act of prescribing of therapeutic goods is captured – thus underpinning the independent prescribing capacity of CPNs.
In using the term ‘nutritionists’ the aforementioned legislation refers only to clinically trained nutritionists who independently engage nutritional medicine and are accordingly members of associations that facilitate TGA Schedule 1 exemption. While other dietary services professionals might engage the term ‘nutritionist’ (in reflection of their nutrition scientist training) – such individuals do not fall under the TGA Schedule 1 42AA provisions because the clinical aspect of their primary profession is considered separate and distinct from that of a clinically trained nutritionist ‘Nutritionist’.
By long standing industry norms, only a nutritionist who has undertaken training that facilitates TGA schedule 1 exemption (and thus belong to a TGA schedule 1 exemption facilitating association) is able to claim legitimacy as a nutritionist operating in an independent clinical setting (as a bona fide healthcare professional), and extend the term ‘nutritionist’ beyond that of a nutrition scientist.
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