We were recently wondering why, as Dietitians, we don’t shout about the work we do and the outcomes we achieve. Does this sound familiar to you as an AHP? It isn’t that we don’t measure outcomes on a daily basis in the form of weight changes, quality of life, symptomatic control (or whatever outcomes are applicable to your role), it’s that we don’t collate our data and present our findings. As a consequence we are guilty of downplaying our value and contribution to the MDT and, most importantly, to the patient journey.
Every consultation begins with a problem – that problem might look different from a patient perspective to an AHP perspective. So how do we determine when the problem is improving for both parties?
We have to begin with a conversation – what is important to you? For the person with IBS it might be not needing to know where all the toilets are on their journey to and from work. For the person with cancer it might be being able to cut their grass on a sunny day without becoming worn out. For the person with MND it might be being able to derive enjoyment from a small meal without worrying about weight loss. Think about what your patients can tell you about your influence on their health and quality of life – what impact you have had on their journey.
On the flip side, as Dietitians we would be more focused on the frequency and consistency of your bowel movements. We might want to improve or maintain your muscle mass and function. We might want to ensure that your tube feed is meeting your nutritional requirements.
Think about how your goals and interventions have influenced patient outcomes and their ability to achieve their goals.
How do we demonstrate that these goals have been achieved and that our input in patient care has value? The answer can be found in the gathering of data from outcome measures. You might think that there is no market for looking at a graph that shows you have been able to maintain the hand grip strength and calf circumference of your patients with liver disease but we can assure you there is. And if you can reconcile that graph with data showing a maintenance or improvement in those patients quality of life – even better!
We were inspired by the motivational tutors on the recent PENG clinical update course to shout about our influence. Even more so in the context of the AHP Careers Fellowship where the regular evaluation of our role is encouraged. Research doesn’t have to be intimidating but it does have to be done and it is down to every one of us to do it as part of our professional body regulations. We do research every day as part of our working lives but often don’t realise we are doing it, so document those outcomes and share them with your colleagues near and far.
How can we expect other professionals to seek out our input if we don’t make a fuss of how good we are? Gather your data. Display your graphs and posters. Tweet your results. Connect with other professionals and get the word out there that you have value and much to offer as an AHP.
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