North Cumbria Health and Care

A Day in the life of ……….

A dietitian: my acute and community role


Hello my name is Orla and I am a dietitian based a West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven.  I work across both the acute and community setting and have been in my current post for the past 13 months. For me there is no such thing as a ‘typical day’ and my role varies greatly from one day to the next.

My working day starts at 8.30 am, and usually with a large cup of coffee. Most mornings you will find me the office where I will be reading and responding to emails and checking the department telephone for messages. Next, I will normally check my acute caseload and new referrals for my wards and then decide on which patients I need to see that day.

Within my acute role I cover the busy medical and surgical ward. I love the clinical aspect of working within the acute setting and find it fascinating learning about different medical conditions. Studies show that more than a quarter of patients admitted to hospital are at risk of malnutrition. Malnutrition affects every system in the body and results in increased risk of infections and longer hospital stays therefore nutrition plays an important role in the recovery and rehabilitation of ill patients. Patients often have poor appetites due to underlying conditions and often need advice and support to help them increase their energy intake. This may be in the form of advice on meals, snacks, nourishing drinks and food fortification or where appropriate nutritional supplements. As dietitians we estimate a patients nutritional requirements and then decide on how is best to meet this. Often patients may temporarily be unable to eat and drink and so they need to be fed artificially either through feeding tubes into the gut (Enteral) or directly into the bloodstream via a vein (Parenteral). These routes of feeding are associated with a number of risks therefore it is important that I work closely with ward nurses, doctors and pharmacists to determine the most appropriate treatment for these patients. Where possible I attend multi-disciplinary team meetings including board rounds, best interest meetings, discharge planning meetings and catering meetings.

If I am not in the hospital then I will usually be out in the community at an outpatient clinic, at a care home or visiting a patient in their own home. I often follow up patients that I have seen in the hospital once they have been discharge home and I am always grateful to be a part of their recovery process. Visiting patient’s in their own homes often gives a better representation of their situation and usually allows me to provide more in depth dietary advice.

My caseload is very varied and I see adults of all ages and backgrounds. As well as working with patients with/at risk of malnutrition I provide specific dietary advice for those with chronic conditions such as coeliac disease, liver disease, inflammatory bowel conditions, irritable bowel syndrome or those on long-term tube feeding in the community. Another aspect of my role that I enjoy is and delivering healthy eating educations sessions to patients as part of their cardiac or pulmonary rehabilitation and providing training sessions for acute and community staff on nutrition related topics. I am lucky to say that I have very good working relationship with my team lead and colleagues and work closely with them to develop training sessions and information resources for patients. As part of my role I also take turn to represent the department at one off events such as health and wellbeing days and coeliac fayres where we provide general nutritional related advice to the general public.

Working across the acute and community setting means that my days can very busy and often do not go as planned as I usually need to priorities my acute responsibilities over my community role. Although this is a challenging aspect to my role there are so many rewards to working in a health care related role. I love that no two days are ever the same and I am excited to learn new things and meet new people every day.

Find out more about Dietitian jobs on Health Education England‘s website Health Careers


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