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Marta Buczkowska

Marta gives a personal account of the highs and lows of her dietetics placements.

My Placement B consisted of three weeks of Higher Health Education (HEE) placement and nine weeks of clinical placement in the Great North Children’s Hospital (GNCH) in Newcastle. During the three weeks of HEE placement, I had a chance to delve into the public health aspect of dietetics, which I absolutely loved! I had an opportunity to deliver a wide range of group educational sessions on a variety of topics. I have met with people living with dementia and their carers to deliver a presentation on eating and drinking with dementia, had a chance to work with Year 5 and Year 6 students from a local school where I delivered an interactive workshop on healthy eating, and finally, I ran an educational workshop on plant-based diets for Newcastle University students and staff. As you can see, I worked in a wide variety of settings, which helped me better understand the needs of the local population and how dietitians may fit in the local systems. 

I was very excited to spend the remaining nine weeks in the GNCH, as I love working with children and was considering a career as a paediatric dietitian. As GNCH is one of the five biggest children’s medical centers in the UK, I knew I would see a wide variety of patient groups and learn a lot in terms of clinical dietetics skills (and that is indeed what happened). During my time in the hospital, I had a chance to gain experience in the fields of paediatric diabetes, cardiology, cystic fibrosis, coeliac disease, gastroenterology and many others. I especially enjoyed my time in the cystic fibrosis clinic, where I was able to get to know the patients and their parents better and truly understand and appreciate the importance of patient-centered dietary advice. Beyond all the great clinical experience I gained, I also built relationships with the amazing dietitians from the department. Working alongside them helped me improve my communication skills (it requires a lot of skills to communicate a nutritional plan to both a concerned parent and their child!) and better understand the importance of building a healthcare professional-patient rapport. 

Marta in her dietetics uniform.

My C placement was a bit different, as I did it at the Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, where I worked with adults. I was a bit terrified before starting it, as by the end of it, we (as dietetic students) are expected to perform at the level of a qualified Band 5 dietitian, and I had not really worked with adult patients before then! However, it turned out most of the skills are very transferable and the main differences are that there are not so many toys on the wards (sadly) and that you usually have to communicate with one or two people at once (instead of the whole family!). During this placement I gained experience in an acute setting, home enteral feeding, bariatric (both pre- and post-op) and general clinic (where I mostly focused on food fortification advice, improving relationship with food, diabetes and coeliac disease advice). I especially enjoyed my time in a bariatric clinic, where I got to shadow a very inspirational dietitian, who taught me a lot about motivational interviewing and the complex relationship between mental health and weight. I even got to shadow a bariatric surgery (gastric sleeve) and had a chance to follow up with that same patient in clinics three weeks post-op. I also worked on a few quality improvement projects - I developed a vegan and vegetarian liver-reducing menu and leaflets, and designed a project aiming to introduce a high energy and high protein menu within the trust. I‘ve enjoyed it all a lot and learned so much!

Overall, those 24 weeks taught me a lot about time management, prioritisation (this is a very important life skill, as realistically you cannot read about EVERY disease and all management pathways, while keeping up with uni work and master’s research project – you need to be able to prioritise) and communication. It helped me better understand my own values, boundaries and importantly- what I want to do (and what I don’t want to do) after I graduate. However, I will not lie – placement is very demanding, but extremely rewarding at the same time!