Carolyn and Kathryn, Northumbrian dietitians, tell us what they love about their job on National AHPs Day
My name is Carolyn Jackson and my colleague Kathryn Rodenby and I work as part of the community nutrition support team based at North Tyneside General Hospital. We specifically support patients in the community who are at risk of, or are suffering from, malnutrition, offering help and advice.
The service usually supports elderly and vulnerable patients, however, malnutrition can happen to anyone, at any age, if their diet isn’t adequately meeting their nutritional needs day-to-day.
Fighting malnutrition is of huge importance to the NHS. Malnutrition can lead to many other health issues such as increased risk of falls, poor immunity, and increased hospital admissions. In what is known as ‘medicines optimisation’, our job as dietitians includes seeing patients at home and preforming nutritional care planning, supporting care homes to look after their residents and their nutritional needs, as well as providing training to an array of staff members across the community.
We work with many other Allied Health Professionals, such as speech and language, physio and occupational therapists and together we collectively support our patients. Doctors and nurses are often the most recognised healthcare professional in the NHS, however, there is a much broader range of staff working hard to care for our patients. AHP day recognises those professionals and champions the work AHPs do individually as well as part of a multi-disciplinary team.
Covid-19 has hugely changed the way we deliver our service and Northumbria dietitians identified quickly that we needed to restructure how we worked. Previously providing face-to-face contact in clinics or the patient’s own home, the service has now become a telephone-based clinic, as well as exploring digital platforms to consult and care for our patients.
One of the biggest challenges of this time was not being able to predict where we were heading. In the early stages of Covid-19, the situation was ever-evolving and this brought a lot of uncertainty and anxiety for our patients, as well as us as a team. As much as this has been a challenging period for our team and the wider NHS, a real sense of team work and commitment has come out of this time.
Kathryn and I were required to upskill and support our ward-based colleagues; myself going on the North Tyneside hospital’s wards, after 12 years, to provide nutrition support. Kathryn provided cover to higher-risk patients on respiratory wards and intensive care unit at our Northumbria hospital.
We were also reinforced by our diabetes specialist dietitians colleagues, making sure all our patients in the community still had provision of care helping to reduce community malnutrition. The team worked with the wider community services to ensure we could provide advice and direction on food parcels to support the vulnerable with elements of food provision in times of need.
On AHPs day not only do we want to celebrate our team and other Northumbria Allied Health Professional colleagues, we want to raise awareness around malnutrition. It can happen to anyone and can lead to a number of serious issues if left untreated. Basic steps such as aiming for three nutritious meals per day, include nourishing fluids and nutritious snacks can all help to reduce the effects of malnutrition.