The role of a dietitian by Rebecca Kennedy, frailty and clinical educator dietitian

A series of blog posts to give you more information about the role of a dietician in Gateshead. First is from Rebecca Kennedy, a frailty and clinical educator dietitian

What is your the role as a Dietitian at Gateshead?

I currently work as a Frailty Dietitian and Clinical Educator within the community dietetics team at Gateshead. My role is new to dietetics, and I have been scoping the role over the past 5 months. Currently it involves assessing and implementing dietary interventions for people who are frail or at risk of frailty. I currently have new out-patient clinics that specialise in respiratory disorders, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. I also oversee the nutritional care for residents within the 28 care homes across Gateshead with the help of a dietetic assistant practitioner. My role as a clinical educator involves malnutrition training to allied health professionals, including health care assistants and district nurses.

What impact do you have on patient care?

As a dietitian, I work with individuals to implement changes within their daily lives. Nutritional status has a huge impact on their care and helps to slow down the progression of their disease. I work alongside the MDT, especially with speech and language therapy and district nurses. By educating allied health professionals on how to complete the malnutrition screening tool, I am helping patients to be correctly referred to our service who are at risk.

What does a normal day look like for you as a Dietitian?

A typical day often consists of clinics. This has changed to telephone clinics at present due to the pandemic but will soon return to face to face. I assess new and review patients and help guide patients to implement an appropriate intervention for their nutritional needs. This includes food fortification, oral nutritional support, symptom management and behavioural changes. I am also currently developing the service by producing patient leaflets, adapting screening tools, creating an audit and carrying out digital training.

Do you work within the community or are you hospital based?

I primarily work within the community, through out-patient telephone clinics and care homes telephone assessments. I liaise with the acute team regularly as patients often cross over from the acute to community team and vice versa.  I also cover acute wards which includes enteral nutrition and oral nutritional support.

How did you become a Dietitian?

I have always had a passion for food and nutrition; however it was not until my sister had an eating disorder and I learned about the role of the dietitian, that I decided I would pursue dietetics as a career. I went on to study BSc Dietetics at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh and graduated during the pandemic. I then joined the Dietetics team at Gateshead initially on the Bank, working mainly in the acute setting and covering Clinics. I enjoyed listening to patients tell their story and adapting the nutritional intervention to suit their needs, and found working with frail adults rewarding. I then took the opportunity to take the progressional role earlier this year.

How do people get referred for nutritional help / access the service?

Patients can be referred to the dietetics team as both an inpatient or outpatient by nurses, doctors, GP’s, allied health professionals and community team members. Patients will then be individually assessed by a qualified dietitian and appropriate, evidence-based advice given.