Written by Natalie Briggs (@balancebybriggs)
So, you have finally completed your dietetics degree and this is it. You are ready, not to mention qualified, to begin your dietetic career with your first band 5 job.
Well this is exactly where I was at May of this year. However, Covid-19 did mean the end of our final year and final placement didn’t entirely go to plan…. but I think we all felt that no matter the degree or job or life situation!
Anyway, I am writing this after working for four months as an acute dietitian at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. I cannot believe how fast the time has gone! And let me tell you I have experienced most feelings in the book… nervousness, excitement, stress, tired, happy, sad, supported and it’s also been fun!
First of all, the one major thing I have discovered is that YOU LEARN ON THE JOB.
As good as placement, reading up on information and preparing yourself is useful…
Sometimes (ok maybe a lot of the time) you will learn something new when it happens at that moment in time. I think that is why I enjoy the job and specifically a band 5 role so much. YOU ARE CONSTANTLY LEARNING. ALL OF THE TIME. From everyone… your colleagues, the doctors, the nursing staff, the other healthcare professionals, the caterers and OF COURSE the patients themselves.
The second thing I have discovered and also urge everyone to do is ASK ALL THE QUESTIONS. This can be in any capacity:
If you are sat in the office with your colleagues and want to discuss one of your patients for a second opinion,
If someone says they eat a certain food or brand and you are like ? what is that please ?
If a doctor says they will put a patient on ‘x’ medication and you don’t know what it is then ASK.
If a nurse says a patient has gone for ‘x’ procedure and they just say a long anagram then ASK what it means.
On another note, to-do-lists are my best friends.
Now I don’t mean go and get a fancy top notch notepad with carved to do lists written in fancy gold pen…
I mean just get a plain old pocket-sized notepad and write down all the patients/little jobs/things to check up on for that day on your piece of paper with square boxes next to each job and the satisfaction of ticking the boxes off is MARVELLOUS.
It really does help you stay organised, working as a band 5 there are so many things going on it can be super easy to forget to do that one little job because you didn’t write it down.
Now it depends on where you work, but for me specifically I am on a rotation which means I have my set wards that I work on. So, it’s a very clever idea to make the effort with the staff on that ward since you spend most of your days there.
Attending board round is the first positive thing you can do. It means your face is familiar to the rest of the medical team and also helps pick up patients that need YOUR HELP- you can ask questions and really find out a lot of information there and then which is great news.
It really is a nice feeling when the ward staff know that you are the dietitian, some may even actually remember your name (woaaah). When its Monday morning and you enter the ward and you are greeted with a smile and ‘hello Natalie’ by the ward sister it makes you feel a lot more at home, trust me. What isn’t great is when you join in on conversations about Netflix and someone talks about a part that you haven’t watched yet….
What about Covid?
Of course I will touch upon working for the NHS and ‘the front-line’ during the unprecedented Covid times.
When I first started my role in May all of the dietitians in my workplace would sympathise with me and my year group having to start our careers in the pandemic. I did resonate with them slightly but I also didn’t actually have anything to compare it with (bar placement) so really I didn’t know what was going on… which I personally think may have been a good thing. The PPE you just get used to and just stock up on hand cream for the constant sanitising + washing of your hands!
Now to finish- some real honest chat-
I have recently just experienced a spout of intense and complex patients that seem to have hit me day after day. It’s been great as I have learnt a lot and I have had to liaise with my senior dietitians as some work has been out of my scope of practice for a band 5- but I think that just shows how supportive your colleagues are so please utilise that!
It has also been mentally hard- sometimes you get so lost in your work on the wards you definitely do normalise things.
But our job is hard.
Patients are ill, sometimes very ill.
Sometimes the outcome is really disheartening and just plain sad.
But I am here to remind you that it is ok to not be ok. Talk about your feelings with your colleagues but also your friends and families outside of work….
Allow yourself that time to ‘chill’ when you aren’t in work (this is something I still need to implement more myself).
So what is the take home message?
It is just to make your role your own,
its your case-load, they are your patients, you are qualified and you can do it.
YOU WILL LOVE IT.