Dietitians Week 2020 - What do dietitians do?

This week (1-5 June 2020) is Dietitians week, Kiri Pointen-Bell, Lecturer in Dietetics tells us what the dietetics team had planned if we were still on campus, but also how our students and staff have adapted to learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The Great Dietetic Cook Off 

Back in February 2020, in collaboration with the British Dietetic Association, we were busy putting plans in place to run the Great Dietetic Cook Off in our Food Science Kitchen on campus - a fun event to welcome dietitians from various specialist backgrounds to showcase their recipe adaptation and culinary skills. 

The cook off was to be a celebration of both the range of specialist dietetic roles and the therapeutic diets, that we dietitians support people with, in order for them to accomplish health and well being goals. Due to the pandemic, cook off plans have sadly had to go on hold - something hopefully to look forward to in a future Dietitian’s Week.

Well if you’re a bake off, sewing bee or pottery throw down fan and generally love a bit of creativity and friendly competition, then unfortunately Dietitians Week at BCU isn’t nearly as exciting as planned. However, despite the pandemic, the show must go on and there is important work to be done to support our students through their training to enable them to join the dietetic workforce in a timely manner. So what has been happening at BCU during Dietitians Week 2020?

Our second year MSc Dietetics students 

Our second year student dietitians are waiting to go out on their NHS placements that have also been postponed due to the pandemic.

Over the last few weeks of lock down, the second years have been participating in a range of activities to keep their skills polished and knowledge fresh for when they do head off into the NHS in the coming weeks. We have now finished the last round of virtual consultations. The students took part in these via zoom whilst being observed by a dietitian lecturer. They carried out these practice consultations with our fabulous actors who either played the part of a patient who has raised cholesterol or a patient who requires nutrition support due to cervical cancer. Not only was this an opportunity for students to practice educating and advising service users, but it was also a chance for students to develop their consultation structure and style.

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They have been working on ensuring that their assessment is holistic, that they correctly identify the key nutrition problem and then go on to suggest suitable intervention and goals - all within an allocated appointment time slot! Easier said than done! Occasionally, our actors throw in something unexpected too, meaning the students have to think on their feet and manage a suddenly more complex situation; an important ability for preparing for work on the front line.

To finish up Dietitian’s week, on Friday the second year students will be sharing clinical letters they have written based on the practice consultations.  As they haven’t written clinical letters before, they have been working in groups with their peers and during our Friday Microsoft Teams meeting, we will be appraising the letters and reflecting on how to develop these writing skills.

Our first year MSc Dietetics students 

Our first year student dietitians have been busy attending online launches and the first remote teaching sessions of two new modules. The first is the 'Prevention and Intervention in Dietetic Practice' module, the focus of this is to enable students to deliver evidence-based dietetic practice with adults and children at an individual, group and community level for a range of conditions, in fields such as neurology, elderly care, gastroenterology, oncology and public health.

Another module launched this week is the 'Food Science, Food Skills and Applied Nutrition' module which is designed to cover how food production and processing affects nutritional content of food, institutional catering and food service and also how to apply nutritional standards in recipe adaptation, whilst bearing in mind food legislation, cultural choices and therapeutic needs. These modules will be taught remotely throughout June and July and we hope to run some sessions in the food science kitchen later in the year!

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Our staff

As well as adapting and delivering the taught elements of the course and coordinating placements, the Dietitian lecturers have also been working on admissions, reviewing the many (!) applications ready for our January 2021 intake. Dietetics is a popular career to pursue not least because of the diversity in career opportunities and the reward felt when supporting people as a healthcare professionals.

What Dietitians do during Covid-19 

2020 might not have gone as expected and times have been difficult for many, but on a lighter note this week is one to raise the profile and work of the Dietetic Workforce. Dietitians have had an essential role in the management of patients with Covid-19 especially on ICU and ITU wards. Looking forward, the need for nutrition support for the many now in recovery means that the months ahead will be very busy for our profession. 

As a lecturer, seeing the way both our cohorts of student Dietitians have adapted in light of the pandemic, demonstrating flexibility, teamwork, enhancing their digital skills whilst showing dedication to learn, try out new things and their resilience has been so helpful as we navigated through these challenging few months.

The future for Dietitians 

We now look ahead to work in line with local and national Covid-recovery plans and as we reflect on all what has happened so far and look ahead to the future I know once they are fully fledged new graduates, our current BCU student dietitians will be huge assets to the profession in the post Covid-19 era and hopefully next Dietitian’s week we will be able to celebrate this in person!

Interested in learning more?

You can learn more about nutrition and food science on our MSc Dietetics course.

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