Meet the Dietitian: Nadine van Niekerk

Inspirational Dietitians Nadine van Niekerk and Stefanie du Plessis make a huge impact in their area (Bethlehem, Free State) by going above and beyond their job description of Dietitians. They empower, encourage and equip their patients and colleagues and frequently reach the papers for the impact they are having.

We spoke to them both and decided to launch both their ‘Meet the Dietitians’ on the same day! Read on and be inspired.

 

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Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

I had thought a lot about what career path to choose in school, and after shadowing a lot of different careers I ended up choosing dietetics. I love the science and research behind it and I was fascinated by the physiological effect of food on the human body. And I just love eating!

Where did you study (degree and/ or postgrad)?

I studied at North-West University, Potchefstroom campus and completed my B.Sc. Dietetics degree in 2010.

Where do you work and what does your job entail?

I am a dietitian for the department of health, stationed at Dihlabeng Regional Hospital in Bethlehem in the Free State.

The Hospital is Regional and caters to a large community. It offers all specialised fields of medicine, from intensive care, surgical, orthopaedic, gynaecological, paediatric, obstetric, medical and outpatient services. As the dietitian, I tend all wards rotationally and ensure all nutritional needs are met, especially in critical care, surgical and paediatric wards. I am also responsible for product selection and prescription.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

What I enjoy most is really feeding the patients that cannot feed themselves. Critical care is my passion and I love ensuring those that cannot speak for themselves are taken care of. Ensuring our ICU discharges survivors, not victims is basically our focus and what we strive for, focusing on early effective nutrition and ensuring better outcomes.

I also love working with the premature unit and being involved in breastmilk banking and striving for a formula free unit. Breastfeeding advocate is an understatement! We make a very big deal of breastfeeding week and always try to go the extra mile when promoting. Debunking all the terrible myths around breastfeeding is a very high priority.

We also organise a big event each year to ensure more people are aware of the benefits of breastfeeding and why we are so obsessed with it. We usually use all proceeds from sales for our own lodger mothers and NICU, as the unit is so close to our hearts. This year we raised over R 5000 in the breastfeeding event, which really focused on the empowering role breastfeeding plays.

We used the proceeds for toiletry packs to improve the personal hygiene in the unit and also just to treat the moms to something nice, as we are expecting so much of them. The toiletry project is ongoing, so we also encourage anyone interested to contact us for more details with regards to donating.

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My most satisfying moments are seeing patients leave the hospital in better condition than they arrived, helping mothers reach breastfeeding goals and making a difference in people’s lives that would otherwise be unable to afford your services.

At this year’s breastfeeding event we also let mothers get the opportunity to take professional portraits of themselves in a professional studio setting by an accomplished photographer. The point was to remind all women of how beautiful they are and just to boost their confidence. The photos came out more beautiful than we ever imagined. Giving opportunities to people that would maybe otherwise not have been able to have them, is I think, by far the most satisfying aspect of my job. Government work is really what I love to do and I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to work for the Department.

What has been your career highlight?

That’s a hard one! I think this year’s breastfeeding event and all that was achieved and all the money raised is something I am very proud of. But also each year offers a new highlight, we have really also made our mark in the Hospital and are at an all-time high when looking at in-hospital referrals and ensuring no patients fall through the cracks.

 

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

Working in Government you sometimes have to make difficult choices with regards to stock availability and you have to be flexible due to budget restrictions. I also find the Intern doctors very challenging, hahaha 😉. Having to go through the same routine each year to ensure proper referrals is often exhausting.

  • What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?
    Oh my word don’t look at what I am eating!
    Can I quickly ask you something?
    What do you do all day in a hospital?

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