Last updated: 22 April 2021
At Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (PHU) our Dietitians provide support and information for patients, and help other hospital staff to advise patients on diet and nutrition topics.
Dietitians are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems at an individual level, and also at a wider public-health level. Dietitians work with both healthy and sick people. They use the most up-to-date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease to create practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices.
Dietetic support is provided for children and adults as outpatients, inpatients and to the surrounding community via satellite clinics and home visits.
A day in the life
You'll work in hospitals or in the community and with individuals and communities with both healthy and sick people. You could, for example, work with people who:
- have digestive problems
- want to lose weight
- need to put on weight after an illness
- have HIV
- have an eating disorder
- want to improve their sports performance
- have an allergy.
As well as working with other health professionals and nutritionists, you may supervise the work of dietetic assistants. Dietitians and nutritionists have different roles and training and are regulated by different bodies.
Once qualified, dietitians often join the British Dietetic Association. Registered dietitians have to keep their skills and knowledge up to date with annual CPD (continuing professional development). BDA runs courses, conferences and seminars where dietitians can exchange ideas and update their skills.
You could specialise in a clinical area, such as cancer or diabetes or work with particular groups, such as elderly people or those with learning difficulties. Teaching and health education are also options. You could take on a management role where you would supervise the work of a team of dietitians. Eventually, you could be responsible for controlling a budget and planning and marketing a dietetic service.
You could work in sports nutrition or the food industry. Some dietitians move into marketing roles such as publishing, sales and public relations.
For more information regarding joining our team, please submit a form through the ‘Contact us’ page or contact the Human Resources team, who are more than happy to help, on 02392 286577 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Specialist Renal Dietitian
What made you become a Dietitian? – Had a keen interest in the area of health and nutrition (I am very sporty) and was lucky enough to get a job as a Dietitians Assistant, which I loved and wanted to be able to work independently with patients.
How did you become a Dietitian? –To become a Dietitian you have to complete either a specific Undergraduate (3-4yr course) or Post graduate degree (2yrs) in Dietetics, which allows you to register as an Allied Healthcare Professional on completion (info found on British Dietetic Association Website). I had already undertaken an Undergraduate degree in Exercise and Health Science (3yrs), which peaked my interest in nutrition. Due to my love of Sports I completed a Masters in Sports nutrition (1yr), which I knew I may need to help me get on to the Post Graduate Dietetics degree. However, the Dietetics courses are very competitive and there are only a handful of post graduate courses available (with limited spaces), so to further my application I applied for jobs as a dietetic assistant after my Masters degree (this was difficult at the time because this role was only just starting to become available – but there are a lot more opportunities now, but also very competitive). Becoming a Dietetic Assistant definitely solidified in my mind that I wanted to progress and become a Dietitian and I had the skill set to do so, so I was lucky enough to get a place on the Leeds Beckett Post-graduate Dietetics Diploma, which took 2 years to complete and involved Dietetic placements at Hospital trusts in the North of England as well as the usual Essays and Exams within different specialty areas of Nutrition, Dietetics and Health science. On qualification, I applied for Dietitian band 5 jobs using NHS jobs and passed an interview with PUHT. To become a Specialist Renal Dietitian I was lucky enough at PUHT to apply for a preceptorship programme which became available 7 months into my first B5 dietitian post. This meant I could stay as a B5 Dietitian a bit longer, but complete several competencies over a 6-12month period before I was classed as a specialist (providing me with more confidence in the skills I was learning). Usually to get a specialist role you need to have been working as a band 5 for at least a year.
What do you do on a day to day basis? I work on the wards, in clinics, at Dialysis Satallite units and speak to patients over the phone that have Acute or Chronic Kidney Failure. I provide nutrition support to those who are not eating well, which can involve writing letters to the GP to get supplement drinks prescribed; offer advice on how to enrich their diet as a food first approach and send out diet sheets to use (which I may have created) and work alongside Doctors, nurses, speech and language therapists, pharmacists and other Allied Healthcare professionals to identify if other medications or social issues need dealing with to aid better diet intake. I also provide training to medical staff on how we manage patients nutritionally, as well as supporting patients to be compliant in taking certain medications or follow a prescriptive diet depending on what is happening with minerals found in their bloods. I also liaise with other Dietitians that may have specialised in an area that I am not so aware of to help patients that may have other issues outside of their kidney disease i.e Liver disease, Irritable bowel disease, Diabetes, Cancer.
Why did you choose PHU? It was one of my local NHS Trusts that employed Dietitians and I had colleagues who I worked with as a DA that worked/had worked at the Trust and recommended it as a place to work. I also knew it had a specialist Renal department, which I was very keen on pursuing as a speciality due to placements and experience gained during my Post -Grad degree.
What do you enjoy about being a Dietitian? I feel I am constantly learning, which helps evolve my practice and this helps me deliver care to patients that do value our support in their time of need. I like working alongside people with chronic illnesses as I feel I can help improve their Quality of life and you can really get to know these people well. I also like being able to work alongside different practitioners, yet again to improve my knowledge and it feels like a very good support network at times. I also love the fact I can come across different areas of Nutrition, which is ever evolving and have the opportunity to work in many different places and each day brings different challenges.
Career plans and advice for others – Try to gain experience in the area you feel you want to work in before you start the lengthy process of applying for degrees (if a degree course is needed), or at the very minimum speak to people in that career to find out how they got to where they are and why they like it and what skills are good to have. It can be a very hard process and competitive and you don’t want to find out you don’t enjoy something when it is too late. Find out exactly what you need to apply for the job you feel you want to get – this may mean certain foundation courses/BTECs or A-levels/degrees. Never feel it is too late to change careers. I was 30 when I finally found what I really wanted to do, but did have to put a lot of hard work in to get it, but the final reward of getting the job made it worthwhile.