Current employer: Self-employed
Current job title: Freelance Dietitian
Current location: Poole, Dorset
“Plymouth offers a great dietetic degree with a range of learning experiences presented by a dynamic and innovative lecturing team, in modern and well-equipped facilities... It has a great mix of learning methods, including theory based lectures and practical workshops to help put your new knowledge into practice and prepare you for real life experiences of working as a dietitian.”Tell us about your career path since graduation.
After qualifying as a dietitian in 2007 I began my career in a large university hospital working with adult inpatients and outpatients. This was a rotational post, giving me the opportunity to develop my clinical and professional skills within a range of different specialties. I was fortunate enough to be able to include paediatrics in these rotations and went on to specialise in this area. I developed my knowledge and experience of paediatric dietetics by working in as many different clinical specialties as possible and also by studying for an MSc in Advanced Clinical Practice in Paediatric Dietetics.
In 2012 I commenced work in a different NHS trust as the dietetic lead for the paediatric gastroenterology and ketogenic diet services. In 2016 I moved away from the National Health Service and started my own nutrition consultancy specialising in dietetic services for infants, children, and adolescents, and for the management of food allergy and gastrointestinal disorders.
Has your career path changed since graduation?
Yes, it has changed a number of times. My initial interest in nutrition and dietetics came from a personal background in sports. I had initially intended to work in the sports industry; however, my first experience of clinical dietetics during my placements as part of my undergraduate degree changed my mind. Moving into freelance dietetics was also an unexpected career change. Working as a freelancer involves a lot of additional business factors that you do not need to consider when working for a company, but it provides a great opportunity to promote the dietetic profession outside of the NHS.
What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?
Working with sick people, especially children, can be challenging and upsetting at times, but being part of a team that is helping people to become well again is highly rewarding and well worth the challenge. However, for me, the greatest challenge I have faced so far is balancing my role as a mother with my professional role as a dietitian.
What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?
Planning and implementing a new ketogenic diet service for children with difficult to control epilepsy was a great experience. It was hugely challenging and a steep learning curve as I had never worked in this area of dietetics before, but it was fantastic to see the results of such hard work when the diet started to be a successful treatment for some of the children. Starting my own business is also incredibly exciting!
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the same line of work?
If you want to work in the nutrition field you should consider the different professions available before you decide on a course. Dietitians, nutritionists, and nutritional therapists all work in different roles so understanding the differences will help you to decide for which you are best suited. If you decide to study to become a dietitian, knowing the difference between these professions and why you wanted to be a dietitian will be really useful for your university interview.
How did studying at Plymouth help you?
The University of Plymouth provides the opportunity to study dietetics over only three years. It has a great mix of learning methods, including theory-based lectures and practical workshops to help put your new knowledge into practice and prepare you for real life experiences of working as a dietitian. The academic staff are highly knowledgeable and supportive, and there are also some great guest lecturers that are renowned for their work in dietetics.
Did you undertake a placement during your degree and if so, how did this benefit you?
The clinical placements are such an important part of the course because they provide an opportunity to gain clinical experience in a number of different health care settings and specialties. They help to consolidate your learning and prepare you for the demands and expectations of working as a qualified dietitian.
Do you stay in touch with other University of Plymouth alumni or lecturers?
Dietetics is a relatively small profession so it is always nice to come across friends from Plymouth at professional events. I also had the opportunity to work with Dr Anne Payne again when I returned to Plymouth to undertake my masters.
Would you recommend undertaking a course with the University of Plymouth, and why?
Plymouth offers a great dietetic degree with a range of learning experiences presented by a dynamic and innovative lecturing team, in modern and well-equipped facilities. Plymouth is also a lovely part of the country to live in whilst you study.