A fond farewell to life as an NHS Dietitian by Evelyn Newman @evelynnewman17 #dietitian #dnmahp

It’s strange to write this, knowing that by the time this blog is published, I will have only a few working days left as a working NHS employee. It’s been quite a journey and really unexpected in many ways.  
I decided to prepare for the big day– in homage to the seasonal advent calendar-by counting down the 10 remaining days at work. I hope you enjoy a few of my many reflections.

From the many years as a dietitian, the NHS gave to me:

  • 10 different employers:– 9 in England -lasting more than 20 years- and 1 in Scotland, covering the last 15.
  • The privilege of working with 9 different BDA Hon Chairmen. I have volunteered for the British Dietetic Association since 1987 and was elected to sit on the national Council over many years in roles as diverse as: TU General Secretary, Hon Vice Chairman and Deputy Chair of the BDA Scotland board.  I would strongly encourage all members to become actively involved in shaping the work of the association and to participate in events, conferences and consultations.
  • The opportunity of working in 8 areas of clinical dietetic expertise. These include burns, plastic surgery, ITU, spinal injuries, renal, prisons, patient safety and social care. Working in many areas of physical/psychological trauma and social exclusion has encouraged me to be an outspoken advocate for so many silent service users’ voices and to share their stories using platforms such as: writing numerous articles for national publications, blogs and tweets; speaking at or presenting posters at conferences; and delivering webinars.
  • The chance to be a member of the BDA national industrial relations committee for 7 years. During this time I: became the youngest ever Trade Union General Secretary; led the profession into a partnership with the TUC; oversaw the first national ballot for strike action; and became the first dietitian to present a motion at the national TUC congress to a packed audience in the Brighton conference centre back in 1997. That was very character building………but I felt euphoric afterwards!
  • A chance encounter with a prison healthcare manager, which led to 6 years working at all levels of the prison service, including the Dept of health national offender management team and an international study tour of NY State correctional facilities. Give me male lifers over teenage juvenile offenders any day! It’s been great to see how this area of dietetic practice has expanded since the health service became responsible for prison healthcare. It is as rewarding as it can be frustrating at times but we can do so much to improve peoples’ health and well being if we persevere and not judge.
Press release: health innovation projects within the Prison Service
  • The honour of chairing the committee, which co-ordinated the first ever Scottish BDA conference 5 years ago. Working with colleagues from NES, RGU, Alzheimer Scotland, industry, plus Scottish dietetic leaders and branches, we were able to deliver a sell-out event, showcasing the work of the profession from board areas across the country. I was incredibly proud to have played my part in the success of the day- definitely a real highlight in my career.
  • Four prestigious awards– 2 for excellence and innovation in prison healthcare; the BDA’s Dame Barbara Clayton award for the development of social care placements for student dietitians; and an Advancing Healthcare Award, sponsored by the Scottish government. I was also invited to present my work on international study tours and at conferences on 4 different continents. None of these would have been possible without the support and engagement of the wider MDT around me and I am very grateful to all who helped make these things possible.
BDA Conference and Dinner 2015. Dame Barbara Clayton Award
International Speaking Tour in India
  • A place on cohort 3 of the highly successful, digital NMAHP programme in 2015, co-ordinated by the ever-enthusiastic Ann Rae and her colleagues at NES. It was a pretty life changing experience in exposing me to the opportunities of harnessing the power of digital and new technologies. I had to set up my twitter account- albeit with assistance from my two 16 year old daughters at the time- and have never looked back. I have been a passionate advocate of tweeting to many colleagues since then and love the freedom it gives us as professionals to share, learn, network and influence. Two years ago I was even invited to become a Board-level social media champion and was appointed to the Scottish Govt dNMAHP leadership team by Lesley Holdsworth and Debbie Proven- both inspirational, national role models.
  • The chance to be a mum of 2 to my twin daughters, who I am very proud of. I am certainly going to enjoy having more time to spend with them in the coming years. During the pandemic I have also had the pleasure of being deployed with two other NHS teams– delivering face fit testing across the Highlands- and working alongside public health colleagues in both establishing and working as a member the Highland contact tracing team.
  • 1 amazing career: full of variety, adventures, experiences and opportunities. Like a stick of rock, I am a dietitian to my core and will move on from 2021 knowing that I have done my best for the profession, my employers and all the patients I have worked with. I hope to continue volunteering in some capacity as a BDA volunteer as I have done for four decades but in the meantime, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many inspirational colleagues (you know who you are) who have been so encouraging and supportive to me during my NHS career. Your emails and tweets have been quite overwhelming since I shared my news but it’s been very life-affirming to know that so many of you think I have made such a positive contribution

It feels very strange but quite liberating to be able to choose to retire in my late 50’s but it will allow me to fill in an empty 2022 calendar with personal and family interests. Over the past few months, I have been able to make some adjustments to prepare for phase three of my busy life, by taking the opportunity to gradually reduce my weekly hours each month since October. In a funny way, working during the pandemic also helped with this, as I reverted to working from home- like so many others- giving me more time in one place for organising my day. The usual 80 mile commute to work, not to mention many hundreds of miles travelling across the Highlands and beyond, suddenly stopped. It meant that I not only saved a small fortune in petrol, I was also able to set my alarm clock quite a bit later and take more time for self care. Working at the dining room table or from a chair in the sunshine of the garden became the norm and I really appreciated the calm, peacefulness of the outdoors around me.

I will continue to keep up my social media presence using my twitter account, so please don’t be a stranger: send me a direct message anytime or email before I leave work on the 21st December. @evelynnewman17

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and safe times ahead in 2022.

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