• Chloe Shaw

The many faces of a Dietitian

I have been working as a qualified dietitian now for just over a year, I have experienced several rotations in this last year ranging from working in the hospital, community and weight management and diabetes team. I thought now might be a nice time to reflect on what it means to be a dietitian, and why I chose to pursue a career in dietetics.

For me, one of the most appealing factors that made me want to study to be a dietitian was the variety of different roles a Dietitian can have. Most commonly in conversation when someone asks what I do and I reply that I am a Dietitian the common misconception is that I work in weight management and that is the only limited role of a dietitian, and although this area of dietetics is an interesting field, the area of dietetics comprises of many different areas, not only weight management. For instance, currently I am working as a community dietitian seeing nutrition support patients - those patients who may or may not have disease-related issues which are affecting their eating habits and more often than not contributing to an individual unintentionally losing weight. Dietitians can also work in the hospital, specialise in gastro health, oncology, renal, health promotion and many more varied roles!

The world of dietetics is not always a well-known area, therefore it's no surprise that we get confused with the different titles for nutrition professionals - Nutritionists, Dietitians, Nutritional therapists - it can be a minefield with all the different 'titles'. Interestingly enough my dissertation project back in the day was to look at people's perceptions of dietitians and whether they understood what it meant to be a dietitian, and the influence that social media has had on these perceptions. Unsurprisingly, the majority of people in the survey reported that Dietitians were low on their list of people they would access for advice on nutrition, despite our entire degree being dedicated to studying nutrition, the common sources of nutrition cited included social media platforms, nutritionists, and TV. Many stated they were unaware of the differences between Dietitians and Nutritionists, to be a Dietitian which is a legally protected term, you have to study 3-4 years in the UK and be registered with HCPC in order to practice.

Now this makes me wonder as to whether this is because for many years dietitians were not at the forefront of blogs/social media to raise awareness for our profession, however, what has been great to see over recent years are the increasing number of dietitians sharing their knowledge and experience with the general public via easily accessible platforms. I myself, when I was a student, had a blog however I never really found the time to commit to the blog alongside my studies, however I feel as though sharing our knowledge in whatever form that may be is really important and it is important that we have an active voice in the discussions around nutrition.

So whether you work in weight management, oncology, gastro, critical care, renal, women's health, nutrition support I think it's great that we are able to share our nutrition knowledge, dispel nutri-bollocks, and have an active voice in the community to help people where we can!

To paraphrase Jessie J it's not always about the lettuce lettuce lettuce! This was taken from my trip to Australia - made me laugh, often in the past when eating cake/pizza someone would turn around and say 'You're not a very good dietitian if you're eating that' but it's all about balance!

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