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Vincenza Zurlo

Public Policy Paper

Dietitians in New York State have been lobbying for licensure for the past several years.
Currently, New York offers a certification for dietitians and nutritionists. Bill S4999-2013 was
proposed last year with the purpose of providing licensure to dietitians and nutritionists and
defining their practice as licensed professionals. The bill is currently in the educational law
section. It was referred to the higher education department in May of 2013. On May 13
, it was
committed and reported to finance. On May 20
, a lobby day will be held in Albany in order to
support this passage of this bill. There are 11 sections in the bill which defines the scope of
practice, defines terms related to licensure, sets standards of exemption and states special
provisions. The general purpose of this bill is to further legitimize and protect dietetic
professionals in New York State. Currently, certification is voluntary and does not protect
services provided by nutritionists and dietitians. Further, there are no federal standards that must
be met in order to attain a NYS certification as of right now. New York is one of the few states
that does not offer licensure.
The positives related to the passage of this bill are incredibly significant. Firstly, with no
federal regulations regarding the attainment of certification, unqualified professionals may
become certified. This law will help to assure that those professionals who will provide medical
nutrition therapy are credentialed to do so. Importantly, this bill will disallow people from
touting that they are nutrition professionals while avoiding certification. There are both
educational requirements as well as supervised practice requirements that help to ensure that
licensed RDs are highly qualified. This not only sets high standards within the profession but
also assures the public that their licensed RD has achieved the competencies necessary to provide
them with proper care. One of the major barriers that the nutrition profession has faced is that
many people give nutrition advice who are not RDs and have no nutrition education or training.
It is the hope that a law like this will help to alleviate some of the challenges that this presents in
both the profession and the public.
It is challenging to pinpoint negatives related to this bill. There will be a cost for
examination as well as a triennial registration cost, but these seem to be a small price for the
benefits that licensure will offer. One other challenge may be that some RDs will choose not be
licensed. If this bill passes, hopefully public awareness will increase that licensure is available
for RDs and patients and clients will begin to know to ask if an RD is licensed before they
decide to receive services from them. However, this may be challenging at first because NYS has
never offered licensure before and further, the public may be unaware of what credentials are
offered to nutrition professionals in general.
At this time, licensure is a logical and necessary next step in further legitimizing and
elevating the dietetics profession. The alternative to the passage of this bill would be to continue
to only offer certification to nutrition professionals and for many of the reasons listed above, this
is not enough. This bill would protect both the public and the profession by further defining the
practice as well as setting high standards for licensure. If this bill does not pass, one alternative
may be to set stricter standards to meet in order to become certified. Even still, licensure would
be optimal as it will be in line with other states as well as offer the extensive benefits discussed
above. Furthermore, the passage of this bill in the near future would be timely given the recent
changes to the practice. Namely, RDs may now be able to order therapeutic diets independently
in the hospital setting. They may also be able to order labs in order to ensure the effectiveness of
their interventions. This is a monumental step forward for the profession. It shows that dietitians
are an essential part of the medical team and that they are qualified to carry out the
responsibilities outlined by the rule.
On May 20
, there is a lobby day that will be held at the NYS capital. This day will allow
nutrition professionals from New York to speak to legislators about the importance of attaining
licensure in our state. I will be attending lobby day with my preceptor who is the president of our
local dietetic association. Reading through this bill was essential to gaining an understanding
about the main points of the bill and further understanding why it is of vital importance to our
profession. Depending on what appointments we attend, my preceptor and I have discussed
several talking points that I may be able to articulate. One idea we had was for me to speak about
the impact of this bill on students and dietetic interns. I would want to explain that professors and
internship directors would now have an opportunity to explain to students what licensure means
and why we should have it. I also think this could be a selling point for future dietitians to know
that their profession has taken steps to elevate its workers and that they will be seen as
credentialed professionals in the community in which they choose to work.

New York State Senate. An act to amend the education law, in relation to the licensure of
dietitians and nutritionists; bill S4999-2013.