Take the journey!
By Colette Dreyer
Are you ready for your journey in Dietetics? My journey started from a young age having a passion for delicious food and a healthy, active lifestyle. Cycling competitively made me realise that proper nutrition was essential to sustain performance. I realised how big the impact of food is on our health, energy levels, performance, overall well-being and daily lives when a close family member was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and had to lose weight in order to be added to the lung transplantation list. This encouraged me even more to become involved in changing lifestyles of individuals.
I started off by completing a BSc. Human Movement Sciences degree followed by BSc. Honours in Nutrition. This was a great combination, but my aim was to provide individualized meal plans for individual goals and specific disease related conditions. The best decision I finally made was to study BSc. Dietetics at the North West University, Potchefstroom.
And so, my journey as a community service dietitian, and the only dietitian placed at this specific community health centre in Johannesburg began. This came with uncertainties at first as I am responsible for all dietetic services at the facility. Although I was placed out of my comfort zone, as this was not one of my five placement options, and I’m only the third dietitian placed at this facility, I realised the lack of education in this community and the opportunity to contribute to the dietetic department. I gain a lot of experience in various aspects such as malnutrition, cerebral palsy, tuberculosis, brain injury, percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy, pregnancies, hypertensive and diabetic patients as well as patients living with HIV.
Everyone has a unique nutritional composition and individual goals to attain. When patients progress towards, or reach their goal, their gratefulness is very rewarding. I developed skills to explain complex ideas simply, and to use different techniques when a communication barrier occurs. Creative methods were developed to improve patient’s lifestyle and nutritional status with their available food and resources. Attending monthly district meetings held at different facilities provide the opportunity to meet other dietitians and to become familiar with surrounding facilities. This is truly a great year to improve your practical skills and to gain more knowledge.
Say yes to the journey – Life do not always go according to your plan. Sometimes an unexpected opportunity arises. Be open minded, say yes to the opportunity and climb out of your comfort zone. That is the only way to grow and learn.
Be friendly & have respect – It can be difficult to obtain cooperation from colleagues and patients but being friendly and treating them with respect will assist you in doing your job more efficiently.
Promote our profession – Amongst staff and patients.
Do not leave the facility unchanged – You have a big opportunity to make a difference wherever you are placed. Identify a gap and fill it or bring something new to the facility.
Lastly, remember that the community service year is what you make of it. Make sure your journey count!