I’ve been a registered dietitian since 2001 and I would be lying if I said I’ve loved every aspect of every job I’ve done – (today I’m only just getting home from my NHS post 3 hours later than planned due to catching up on piles of paperwork 😁) – but there are many reasons I’m thankful for finding dietetics!
In honour of dietitians week and in no particular order – here are 10 things I truly love about being a dietitian.
- Patients – from newborns to centenarians, the well to the very poorly, millionaires and rough sleepers, convicted murderers and minor celebrities – I must have worked with thousands and thousands of patients – people who let me in and trust me to help them when they’re often at their lowest ebb. I learn something new from my patients every day.
- NHS teams – working in health is emotionally taxing – we often deal with highly stressed or distressed patients and their families. Mutual support from colleagues helps us all get through – as dietitians we work closely with medical, surgical, nursing and a wide variety of allied health professionals as well as with social care and education. I’ve learnt so much from other colleagues – from surgeons talking me through the intricacies of a patients surgery to specialist nurses sharing expert knowledge on medications and their effects on my patients to clinical psychologists sharing techniques to aid behaviour change and music and art therapists sharing their take on mental health patients’ recovery – multi-disciplinary working enriches my patients’ experiences and mine.
- Diversity – Through working in the wonderfully multi-cultural London and Birmingham I’ve supported patients and their families from most of the countries around the globe. If I don’t know about the foods they typically eat I get them to tell me all about them – often learning some new recipes to try out on the way 😋
- Opportunity – there are so many things you can do as a dietitian – so many settings you can work in and so many areas to specialise in. I’ve taken full advantage of that – working with adults, children, in the community and hospitals, the NHS, freelance and academia, and even a bit of media and overseas work. The world is your oyster with dietetics and there’s a niche for everyone.
- Using my brain – nutrition is a relatively new science and there is new research being published daily. Keeping on top of this research, critically appraising it and interpreting it into practical advice my patients can use it is a welcome challenge!
- Emotional growth – facing patients’ mortality and illness is an inevitable part of working in health and it’s hard but for every sad case there is an inspirational one and I feel I’ve ‘grown’ as a person through the emotional challenges that are unavoidable.
- Food – there’s so much to know – as a dietitian you try to develop an encyclopaedic knowledge – from popular foods in different cultures – different easy recipes, the composition of common foods, the allergen context, the price and the flavour and texture profile. And of course experimenting with growing, cooking and eating different foods is a day-to-day occupational hazard 😉
- The international nutrition and dietetic family – via social media, conferences and academic press, getting to read about and share ideas with like-minded registered dietitians and nutritionists and other food professionals is intellectually stimulating and exciting!
- Food + People + Science – dietetics combines these – 3 of my favourite things 🙂
- Making a difference – when an exclusion diet means someone being able to get out of bed in the morning or having skin clear of eczema for the first time in their adult life or being clear of migraines – you really feel like you’ve made a difference to that person. Or when you help someone recovering from cancer treatment regain their strength and weight, or help someone with disordered eating be at peace with food, or help a parent cope with their child’s extreme feeding issues. These are the times you pat yourself on the back and feel that to that person and their family you’ve made a real difference. They make the hard work really worthwhile.
So a big thankyou to the dietitian who manned a stall at a Cardiff University careers fair 16 years or so ago – and handed me a leaflet that led me to discover this fantastic vocation!