by Lorna Breeze (@LornaEBreeze), Dietitian
So I’ll start with a little about me… it took me a little while to decide that I wanted to be a Dietitian. And it’s been quite a different, unique journey to get me here. I knew I was interested in nutrition and public health but ultimately I wasn’t sure which route to take. I did an undergraduate degree at Northumbria University in Sport and Exercise Science, because… well… I liked sport. That is in fact the rhyme and reason behind a 17 year old deciding on their life choices. After University I began to work as a Dietetic Assistant Practitioner; working in both the acute and community, I became a member of the British Dietetic Association and in turn a Branch committee member; and I really never looked back.
Fast forward and I am studying the postgraduate diploma in Dietetics, spending my hard earned money on pursuing the career I knew I wanted. I’m the first in my family to graduate from University and my family are so supportive of my educational journey; and to be quite frank, I’m also a little proud of myself! So why is it that there is a little metaphorical black cloud hanging over my head?
When people asked me what I was studying at university, I often got a slightly negative response from ‘Joe Bloggs’ about my choice of degree and career. So much so that at times I almost felt embarrassed to admit that I was studying to become a Dietitian. Some example responses that I’m sure you have all heard before included; “Oh you must never eat pizza”, “Don’t look at my lunch then” or the age old… “You must only drink kale juice”. All of which are obviously correct (rolls eyes!). Unfortunately, some people also still believe that Dietitians are stool inspectors…thanks to some well publicised people in the media!
But alas, we Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals regulated by law and we assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and public health level. So how can we Dietitians break this stigma and highlight the positive work that Dietitians do to the ‘Joe Bloggs’ out there?
The theme for Dietitians Week this year is “Evidence and Expertise”, which is ultimately our unique selling point as Dietitians. As soon as I heard the theme I immediately thought it was really apt for Student Dietitians to focus on this, how they will come to represent the profession in the future, and how we can influence the public’s interpretation of Dietitians. Throughout my Dietetics course I have been working my way towards becoming a Dietitian with the ability to successfully translate evidence into practice, and I have now made it to the finish line. I am sure I am not alone in realising that most of my learning came from my clinical placement experiences; from my dietetic colleagues and supervisors.
My clinical placement experiences were all really positive and I met some great Dietitian’s along the way. But I have to say there is one situation that stands out to me in regards to evidence and expertise that I thought was important to share.
As students on placement I think we expect to become experts within each clinical area, whether this be self-expectation or our perceived expectations of our supervisors. There is an immense amount of pressure on students; perceived or otherwise, to know absolutely everything there is to know about dietetic practice. However, on reflection this is obviously an absolutely impossible task. One of the Dietitians I worked with on placement was an expert in their respective field, however when a patient presented with clinical issues out with their field, they suggested that we would speak with dietetic colleagues with expertise in the specific field, in order to guage their expert opinions. “Expert” being the really important word here.
I went home that same night reassured, thinking; it’s actually okay sometimes to not know everything, who knew? I (and probably every other student Dietitian) put so much pressure on themselves to know and retain all information about every area of dietetic practice, when realistically, it’s okay to ask questions in practice to experts in the field, research around the topic or even (shock and gasp) admit that you aren’t 100% sure on the answer at the moment, but you will research further and find out. I think once I realised this I became a little more relaxed during placement and, dare I say it, a better practitioner for it.