Lynsey Spillman – BSc (Hons) Dietetics graduate

Current employer: Cambridge University Hospital NHS Trust

Current job title: Hepatology Dietitian and Research Fellow

Current location: Cambridge

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

My first job was working in a spinal injuries unit and included research and clinical work. Along with my undergraduate dissertation, this gave me the ambition to become a clinical researcher. Two years after graduating I specialised in hepatology and liver transplant in Cambridge. A year later I started the NIHR funded Masters of Clinical Research at the University of East Anglia.

I am now undertaking research alongside my clinical work and plan to apply for a PhD at the University of Cambridge.

How has your degree helped/ influenced your career path?

The BSc (Hons) Dietetics degree allowed me to register and work as a dietitian, which would not have been possible without it. It taught me the skills to confidently enter my first role as a dietitian and equipped me to continuously learn and develop. My degree introduced me to evidence based practice and the importance of research, encouraging my enquiring mind. It opened up multiple career pathways and postgraduate qualification options.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

Persuading other health care professionals to understand the importance of nutrition for patient care and challenging nutrition claims not based on evidence has been difficult but rewarding.

Regarding your career, does anything stand our as your proudest achievement? 

My proudest achievement, which has also been incredibly rewarding, has been designing, getting funding for and undertaking a qualitative research study. I am interviewing patients about their experience of nutrition and physical activity after a liver transplant and the support they were given, with the aim to improve the care patients' receive. I have also recently revised a liver disease chapter in a book for dietitians which I never imagined would be possible when I started working as a dietitian.

If you were to start university again  – with the benefit of hindsight  – what would you now tell yourself to have done differently?

I would have thrown myself into university life more and got involved with more societies, clubs and events. 

What advice would you give to anyone currently applying, and interviewing, for jobs?

Not fret about getting your first job and enjoy the exciting process of searching, applying and going to job interviews. It’s as much about making sure it’s the right job for you, as the employers checking you’re the right candidate for them.

Did you undertake a placement during your degree and if so, how did this benefit you?

My placements allowed me to experience the hospital and community dietitian role and build on knowledge and clinical skills taught at University. From my first placement I was advising how to change diet to help prevent, treat or manage illness or disease. I experienced a lot of different specialities and this made me realise I’d like to specialise in hepatology or gastroenterology. Even now, my practice and ideas are influenced by the activities I did and people I met during placements.

Do you stay in touch with other University alumni or lecturers?

I am in touch with my peers from University. A great bonus to dietetics is unexpectedly meeting past colleagues at study days, courses and conferences. Even six years after graduating lecturers are providing references or passing on details of opportunities. I find Twitter is a great platform for keeping up with news from lecturers and the alumni.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with the University?

Absolutely. The year I graduated my sister began the same degree at Plymouth which I was thrilled about. Studying at Plymouth has allowed me to start a career that I love. I felt supported but learnt to become autonomous.

The University facilities and links with practising dietitians enabled learning and to contextualise knowledge to the dietitian role. Plymouth is a beautiful city and getting to study with the sea, Dartmoor and Cornwall on my doorstep provided a lot of fun.

Inspired by this story?

For more information about studying dietetics please visit our BSc (Hons) Dietetics page. For more information about our range of courses within the School of Health Professions, please visit the school page.

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