Q&A with Tracy MacInnes; Dietitian and Associate Chief Health Professions Officer

Tracy MacInnes with Marjory MacLeod
Tracy with Marjory MacLeod, BDA Scotland Board Chairperson

Can you start by telling the readers a little bit about yourself and your professional career to date?

Yes, I qualified as a Dietitian from what was, Queen Margaret College, in 1986 and started my first job at Stoke Royal Infirmary. It was a rotational basic grade post so covered renal, paediatrics and community; which provided me with a really solid platform to build on. I then went to Stafford District General and worked as the Senior 1 dietitian where I again managed a complex and varied workload within primary and secondary care. I then made the decision to move back to Scotland in 1992 and was successful in getting the renal dietetic post at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow. This was my first experience of working outside of a dietetic department and within a wider multi-professional team. This was when I really began to extend my scope of practice. My final dietetic post was as the Chief Dietitian within the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, after which I moved to work as the Senior Professional Advisor at the Care Inspectorate. In this position I had responsibility for the regulation of independent hospital and hospices in Scotland. This was where my interest in integration started as I lead teams of officers who had professional backgrounds from education, social care, policy and health.

I was awarded the IBEX Award for Professional Achievement in 2003 by the BDA, and in 2005 I completed my Masters in Healthcare Management at Strathclyde University and my Postgraduate Certificate in Social Services Leadership, from Robert Gordon’s University – phew!!

In 2009 I had the opportunity to join the Scottish Government and I’m presently the Associate Chief Health Professions Officer.

How would you describe the work of a dietitian to someone who has never witnessed what we do?

Dietitians use the most up to date health and scientific information on food and health and interpret it in to practical advice so they can support people of all ages to make informed lifestyle and food choices.

With regards to profile, who should dietitian’s/the profession be engaging with and what should their key messages be?

Population health and reducing inequalities is a huge priority for us in Scotland. I believe that the dietetic workforce has a vital role to play by having healthy conversations at every opportunity and interacting with people who use our services, their families or carers, promoting healthy lifestyle choices and signposting to relevant health, voluntary and/or social care services.

In your opinion what makes a good leader?

Someone who can influence outside of their sphere of influence

How can dietitian’s/the BDA encourage leadership within the profession?

We need to build up an evidence base which illustrates the impact of dietary interventions, shows the added value of dietetic input and tells the story of what is the unique skills of a dietitian. I believe that building a dietitian’s knowledge of improvement methodologies and how to apply them is key.

What do you think are the key challenges for the profession over the next few years? And how do you think we can work collectively to address these?

We are living in a challenging economic time with real financial constraints whilst moving forward to working in a more integrated way. People are living longer now and demands on our services will become greater, so we need to deliver services differently and we need to spread and sustain good practice throughout Scotland

The incoming BDA chairman’s theme is ‘Workplace Health’ – why is this an important agenda item and how can dietitian’s lead the way/make an impact on this?

Building up and maintaining our own self resilience is important in maintaining good health; especially considering the pressure we all face. Again dietitains are well placed to sign post work colleagues & friends to resources which can help the person make a more informed decision about their lifestyle; they also have a great deal of practical knowledge and expertise which can be utilised to encourage behaviour change and enable people to adopt healthy lifestyles.

If you could give one piece of advice to a newly qualified dietitian, what would it be?

Remember you can do anything you want to do, as the skills that you have built up are transferable across the public sector.

Some of the Dietitians who attended the Scottish Parliament
Some of the Dietitians who attended the Scottish Parliament

You were able to attend the BDA Scotland Boards event at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, why was this important and what were your reflections from the evening?

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the Scottish Parliamentary reception hosted by the BDA Scotland Board, it was one of many activities being held throughout the country as part of the BDA’s International Dietitians Week 2015

It was a great opportunity to share with MSPs the vital role that dietitians play in dementia care, and to highlight the many examples of good practice from across Scotland. My congratulations to Marjory and the rest of the team for pulling the reception together

The BDA Scotland Board would like to say a huge thank you to Tracy and all of this week’s bloggers. We would also like to thank AHP Scot Blog for providing the platform and to all of our readers who stopped by and got involved in #DietitiansWeek 2015.

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