Experience of a Diabetic Student

Hi, my name is Caoimhe Lennon.

I’m currently studied my MSc in Dietetics. I am in my first year of this post graduate degree and I’m just finished my 12-week B placement in NHS Forth Valley.

I moved from Ireland to Edinburgh in September 21 to become a dietitian and really happy that I made the transition to pursue my career in dietetics. It really is an exciting time to be studying in this growing profession and I am looking forward to seeing where it takes me!

I’m not sure where it comes from but when students, including me, think about starting their first placement, feelings of fear, anxiety and a lot of nerves come flooding in. If only I knew then, what I know now!

As a dietetic student on the verge of completing my B placement with NHS Forth Valley, I am aware that I am both privileged and lucky to have spent the last 11 weeks with this dietetic team – a group of individuals who are extremely passionate about their profession, inclusive and supportive towards us as students and have a genuine interest in working together with patients to help reach their desired outcomes.

Placement B is a time for establishing the dietetic basics, building confidence, experiencing as much dietetic practice as possible, learning your own techniques and essentially finding your feet in the dietetic world. I feel very fortunate knowing I have had every opportunity to do these.

My placement began in the Community Dietetics setting, where I stayed for 6 weeks. I would’ve considered myself well prepared prior to commencing placement, however it wasn’t long before I was humbled. It was not until my first 2/3 weeks in the community setting that I truly understood that variety and different areas that needed dietetic input (and at this point I had only scratched the surface).

From weight management to nutrition support, to IBS clinics, mental health, eating disorders, disordered eating, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, the importance of education in dietetics and the list really could go on. On top of this, the variety in the methods of delivering consultations was also an element of dietetics that I was very impressed by – face to face, telephone, virtual face times and home visits.

Although some of this may be accredited to COVID, it has really opened the playing field in terms of providing a patient centered approach, allowing the patient to choose the most comfortable setting for them. I’m not really sure if this is a good thing but every new area I was introduced to, I was convinced that it was my new career pathway, that was until I tried something new the next day. To be afforded to luxury of exposure in all these areas so early on in my dietetic journey really filled my belly with excitement for what is to come.

As I moved into the acute setting in Forth Valley Royal Hospital in week 7, I was somewhat nervous that any progression I had made prior to this would disappear or that I just would’ve preferred community dietetics. I wouldn’t say I was thrown into the deep end but the increase quantity of patient contact and fast paced nature of dietitians in hospitals, I didn’t really have any time to feel the nerves anymore (which really was a blessing in disguise). I was fortunate that this was the case.

I really got the chance to build my confidence with speaking to patients, healthcare staff, patients’ friends and families and also the dietitians in the department whether it was providing a justification for my decisions or even just asking questions. The hospital wasn’t short of a variety either and I spoke to/shadowed a plethora of patients helping with various different areas.

Some of these included kidney disease, liver disease, gestational diabetes, nutrition support, enteral nutrition, parenteral nutrition and this list could also go on. I was also very privileged as every Friday; I spent my day with the Learning Disability dietetic team. In terms of learning, the range of dietetics I was exposed to has really helped my development with dietetics. My aim (well more so my want) to work in the majority of areas is increasing the chance that I may never retire.

The dietetic teams I shadowed and worked with have really been incredible. It really speaks for itself, that in the 12 weeks (well 11 so far), that I have not heard one dietitian give out about their jobs or complain about what they have to do. I am fully aware that everybody has their days where they are not feeling 100% or are tired but those feelings can easily be detached from the profession.

Every dietitian has spoken extremely highly and passionate about their job. This can also be noticed with the way dietitians include and interact students. Everybody in the department has put in that extra effort to ensure my placement has been as beneficial as possible – whether that is answering questions (no matter how ridiculous it might be), asking me questions or for my opinions on some situations, wiggling around timetables/meetings etc to ensure I got to see any interesting events/ sessions taking place in the hospital, inviting us to sit in with them at lunch times and really just accommodating any queries or anything I had throughout placement.

It has probably been one of the most important elements of my B placement thus far. Along with a big sigh of relief, it gives me the feeling of ‘I would be happy to see myself doing this career in decades times’ (and that’s truly priceless in this day and age).

When I think about my time at placement there is an overriding feeling of positivity, accomplishing and happiness towards it – but do ask me again at 6:00am Monday morning with a +1.5-hour commute ahead of me and there’s a chance my answer might be slightly different. Placement as a student is never 100% butterflies and daisies.

There are days where you may feel like it is all too much and that you are never going to know enough. I found it hard that I was always constantly trying to take in all the information I was reading or being told, and it was very seldom that I could switch off. And honestly, it is no body’s fault but my own but as a student you always want to put your best foot forward by having that knowledge, so you don’t feel silly without the information.

In fact, upon reflection since stating to write this blog, not one dietitian ever had one negative thing to say to me if I didn’t know the answer to something. What I have learned is that having an enthusiastic approach to wanting to learn and doing your best is all that anyone can ask for. It is really important not to be too hard on yourself and that you can always ask for support.

The thing I probably found the hardest throughout my 12 weeks was …… making lunches! And yes, I am aware that it is not just students that have to make lunches. I’ll master that skill someday.

Above all, being a student on placement brings a range of feelings and emotions. Looking after yourself (both physically and mentally) and recognising when you may need that little bit of support from family/ friends/ tutors/ practice educators is vital and almost necessary.

The positives that comes with placement are extremely rewarding, whether it is helping someone overcome any problem they have, seeing family members relieved and seeing positive outcomes or even the feelings of achievement within yourself. Seeing this progression from the inside ignites the feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment and next comes the feeling of wanting to do more!

C Placement, I’m ready !!!