Being a nutrition consultant is a profession with a high level of responsibility. Nutritional consultants should comply with state and federal laws. There are several key guidelines for nutritional consultants all over the US. Medical legislation in the US is based on the conventional healing paradigm, which means that diagnosis, treatment and cure should be involved (Wilson 22). Nutritional consultants, not being a licensed doctors, should be careful to avoid claiming a diagnosis, recommending medications, giving other medical treatment advice etc. In such cases they can be subject to legal claims. Moreover, in Florida unlicensed nutritional practitioners should only work under the patronage of a licensed dietician (licensed practitioner), so the unlicensed nutritional consultant should necessarily take this into account.
A nutritional consultant is eligible to assess signs of the patient’s nutritional deficiency, can recommend or suggest combination of foods and supplements, and might recommend certain lifestyle changes (e.g. dietary limitations, exercising, etc.). For nutritional consultants, it is recommended to develop a form of client disclaimer statement, where it’s clearly indicated that the consultant is not claiming to diagnose or cure anything. The client’s signature will be the verification of agreement between the nutritional consultant and the client. In addition to this, it is important to have proper statements formulated and presented to the client, such as statement of informed consent and disclosure (Wilson 35).
Statement of disclosure generally contains the information on the professional background of the consultant, education, courses taken and degrees, and previous experience. Informed consent indicates the willingness of the client to work together, and to follow the consultant’s recommendations in order to reach the result. Thus, the consent proves the patient’s will to cooperate, the disclosure describes the consultant and his responsibilities, and disclaimer indicates that the consultant will not be attempting to perform services in the scope of responsibility of registered medical professionals. Creating separate sheets describing policies and procedures is another step allowing nutritional consultants to protect themselves in a legal way.
Besides documenting their procedures and responsibilities, nutritional consultants should also be very careful with the choice of words and recommendations to the client. A nutritional consultant should not formulate anything that could be perceived as diagnosis, and should not claim to cure anything. Also, nutritional consultant should only act within the scope of own responsibility, and should never give advice to stop taking medications or to leave current doctor to the patient. This is an action which involves liability, so the nutritional consultants should avoid stating any opinion on the actions of other medical professionals of consultants involved (Wilson 52).
In general, in their communications with the clients the consultants should strictly avoid using such words as diagnose, cure, treat, prescribe, etc (Wilson 47). It might not even be appropriate to mention the word “disease” and in no case should the nutritional consultant make suppositions on the nature of the client’s illness. Also, the nutritional consultant should ensure that all personnel and assistants also realize the importance of formulations and word selection. In general, the best method of avoiding problems with legal regulations in medical sphere nutritional consultants should step far from traditional model of cure and disease, and develop a “balancing” style.
Wilson, Lawrence D. Legal Guidelines for Unlicensed Practitioners. L. D. Wilson Consultants, Incorporated, 2000.