As a paediatric dietitian Grace works hard to improve the quality of life of her patients. Find out what she enjoys about helping children and their families and the challenges
What degree did you study?
I graduated with a BSc (Hons) Food and Nutrition from Coventry University in 2018 and went on to study for an MSc Dietetics at Birmingham City University, graduating in 2021.
How did you get your job?
I started work as a Band 5 general dietitian for Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust. After five months I started in a Band 5 rotational role, where I selected community paediatrics in order to develop my experience of paediatric dietetics.
When a Band 6 role in community paediatrics was advertised, I applied for it and was interviewed the following month. I was offered a development post, where I am currently developing my skills as a Band 5/6 paediatric dietitian.
What's a typical working day like?
I have regular clinics, which take place in various health centres and schools. These usually involve children who are enterally tube fed and need their feeding regimes reviewing to ensure they remain appropriate to help them to grow. I also visit patients in their own homes, usually when patients can't attend clinics and need support at home.
I also get involved in meetings with the wider multidisciplinary team to discuss patients who have joint care with us. I spend some time on admin tasks and regularly have patients to call and follow up with plans. I am also involved in developing our Trust's Blended Diet Policy, which is really exciting.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love meeting the families, learning about their lives and building rapport with them. Seeing your plans work and watching children thrive is very rewarding.
What are the challenges?
One of the main challenges with this patient group is that many of the children are unable to communicate, which can sometimes make it difficult to know their thoughts and feelings. Communication happens through their parents/carers, which is very different from when I worked with adults.
In what way is your degree relevant?
My Masters degree from BCU is very relevant as I am using the core principles of dietetics in my everyday role and adapting these to paediatrics. The dietetic assessment that I learned remains the same in my job today.
I also developed my communication skills during my degree, which has helped me to confidently communicate with both children and parents in an appropriate manner.
How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?
My role has developed quickly over the year since my graduation. I have progressed from being a Band 5 dietitian working within adult dietetics, with a community element, to a Band 5/6 paediatric dietitian development role. My competencies will be reviewed later this year, and if I have achieved them all I will be promoted to Band 6.
I am hoping to continue to develop my career in paediatric dietetics over the next few years.
What are your top tips for choosing a Masters?
- Attend open days and choose a university where you feel comfortable and the lecturers are approachable.
- Look out for anything the course offers that is unique. At my university, we had one placement that was non-clinical. This was great to show us other career routes in dietetics and to discuss in interviews.
- Consider commuting distance and time. You will have a lot of work to fit into your self-directed study time, so make sure you can manage this effectively.
What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?
- Gain some shadowing experience, even if it's only for half a day, in your area of interest at Band 5 level so that you have something draw to upon in interviews.
- Get experience in both acute and community settings. You may have an idea of which setting you would like to work in, but once you've experienced both you may change your mind - like I did.
- Volunteer for as much as you can as a student/Band 5 dietitian, as these experiences will make you stand out when it comes to applying for your next job.