Dietetics in Orange, NSW

I undertook my work integrated learning (WIL) placement in the regional area of Orange, New South Wales. During this placement, I worked as a student dietitian for 4 weeks, mainly conducting a quality improvement project on the food service system in the maternity unit of Orange Health Service. In addition to that project, I was able to gain some experience in clinical dietetics (e.g. reviewing patients in the hospital wards), and conduct a small group education session for a mental health group.

I had significant personal growth and skill development as a result of my placement experience in Orange. In terms of skill development towards becoming a qualified dietitian, I was able to work independently, improve my sense of self-confidence, interact with a diverse range of individuals, develop my communication skills, add to my current knowledge-base in nutrition and dietetics, and gain experience in working within a multidisciplinary team. As this was my first placement in a professional hospital setting, I was initially very nervous and uncomfortable when interacting with my supervisors and other hospital staff. However, as my placement progressed, I gained significant self-confidence and was able to be more familiar and comfortable with the hospital environment and procedures. I gained confidence to actively contribute to the multidisciplinary team, liaising with key stakeholders such as food service managers, food service staff and nursing staff, regarding potential changes to better accommodate the needs and preferences of maternity unit patients in the provision of food service.

An eye-opening experience for me on placement was interacting with individuals that were not that receptive to dietetics care. At university, we were never really told about how to deal with patients who do not want to see you or do not want to talk to you.

In general, I was able to add significant value to my knowledge-base in nutrition and dietetics and develop my critical thinking skills, by conducting a literature review, observing the food service system in the hospital, conducting surveys to determine patient perceptions and attitudes towards provision of food service in the hospital, using guidelines to determine adequacy of the food service system and conducting a tray wastage audit. I was then able to further develop my problem-solving skills by collecting, analysing and interpreting all this information to inform recommendations for improvement of food service in the maternity unit of Orange Health Service.

An eye-opening experience for me on placement was interacting with individuals that were not that receptive to dietetics care. At university, we were never really told about how to deal with patients who do not want to see you or do not want to talk to you.

Being able to gain experience in a real hospital setting, I realised that dietitians are often turned away by patients, as patients either do not know what dietitians do or nutrition is usually not a high priority for them. Therefore, I was able to develop my skills in advocating the role of a dietitian and felt tasked with the role of proving its value in a clinical setting. Furthermore, being able to provide nutrition education in a group setting to a mental health population was a very rewarding experience. I was very nervous about this task initially as this group is often very difficult to engage and I felt inexperienced in tailoring my communication to their needs. However, with the assistance of encouraging supervisors, I was able to develop a fun, engaging group nutrition session that was very well-received by the attendees, which was a very rewarding experience.

In terms of personal growth, I was able to learn a lot about myself, in particular my strengths and weaknesses, while on placement in Orange. During this placement, I was required to live in shared accommodation with a group of individuals who I did not know, with limited Internet access and heating facilities (during the coldest month in Orange!). Overall, the experience made me realise that I am capable of a lot more than I initially realised or thought I ever was.

I would like to sincerely thank ACEN for their generous financial contribution as it has allowed me to have a more enjoyable and valuable placement experience. This additional support allowed me to immerse myself in the local community of Orange and actively contribute to improving the nutritional status of the population. I am very grateful that I was able to conduct valuable work in nutrition and dietetics in such an amazing regional town, as well as learn from an experienced team of supervisors. The skills and knowledge that I have gained from this placement have significantly contributed to my career aspirations of becoming a capable, influential, knowledgeable and motivated dietitian that provides nutrition-related care to patients in need.