Understanding TN State Licensure

Articles on Tennessee's Licensure Law

Consumer Protection Report on Licensure Information May 2014


Licensure Explained


Debunking Common Myths about the LDN Board & Licensure

By Janet Skates, MS, RD, CSND, LDN


Myth #1

Only LDNs can provide nutrition education.  



This is a sticky issue because of 1) the wide range of exemptions that were written into the Dietitian/Nutritionist Licensure act in 1987 in order for the statue to pass and 2) the definition in the statue for “non-medical” when referring to non-medical nutrition.  The rules and regulations define “non-medical” as referred to in the statute (T.C.A. §63-25-104) as the dissemination of non-therapeutic information relating only to normal nutrition for healthy people.  


Among others, the following non-licensed persons are not restricted from providing services and information related to non-medical nutrition: 

  • Those employed by or operating a health weight loss or fitness program
  • Those employed by a health food store
  • Those employed by or operating a business that sells health products, including dietary supplements, food or food materials, or provides non-medical nutritional information or distributes nutritional literature; or
  • Those conducting classes or disseminating information related to non-medical nutrition


The full list of those who are not exempted can be found in the statute. When considering whether to make a complaint about a non-licensed person, please refer to the statute which can be accessed via links on the TDA website (www.eatright-tn.org) or directly at:  http://www.michie.com/tennessee/lpext.dll/tncode/25256?fn=document-frame.htm&f=templates&2.0#.  The exemptions are found under the folder 63.25.104. Prohibited Representations.   


If you feel the non-licensed person is violating the statute, you are reminded to carefully document the nature of the medical nutrition services that are being provided.  The burden is on the person making the complaint to clearly explain how the information being provided by the non-licensed person is different from “non-therapeutic information relating only to normal nutrition for healthy people”.  Remember the board’s attorney is not a dietitian and does not have medical training, so you must clearly explain how the services being provided differ from normal nutrition for healthy people.  


Myth #2

The Board serves the interest of LDNs and protects the profession.



The duty of the LDN board is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.  Our focus is the public.  It is not the board’s duty to protect the interests of licensees,  the profession, or the professional association.  


The board has 2 primary responsibilities:  1) to promulgate rules, which are procedures that allows the board to carry out the powers and duties granted by statute (i.e. establishing licensure qualifications or setting fees); and 2) to assess discipline against licensees who have violated the practice act. 


Myth #3

Licensure board members evaluate complaints about persons who are providing nutrition services without a license. 



This is a common misconception.  Licensure board members do not investigate complaints.  Rather, complaints about persons who are providing nutrition services without a license are reviewed by an attorney and a consultant to the board to determine whether there has been a violation of the Practice Act.  The board consultant is a Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist; however, the consultant is not a member of the LDN Board.   


After a thorough review process, the attorney and consultant reach a decision about whether the complaint merits investigation. If an investigation is indicated, the attorney and consultant – again, not the LDN board - conduct a second level review and decide upon the resolution.  


The licensure board members become involved only if the investigation finds there was a violation of the practice act.  At that time, the case is presented to the board members who function essentially like a jury and decide upon formal disciplinary action to be taken.  For that reason, details of open cases are not discussed with the board.