Meet the Dietitian: Stefanie du Plessis

Inspirational Dietitians Stefanie du Plessis and Nadine van Niekerk 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 was interested in a career in health and dietetics was brought under my attention and I immediately knew that was what I wanted to do, especially the type of work that a hospital dietitian did.

 

Where did you study?

I studied at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein and completed my degree in 2008.

 

Where do you work and what does your job entail?

I work at Dihlabeng Regional Hospital in Bethlehem. It’s a level 2 hospital which serves a very large community and offers a variety of services which includes intensive care for adults and neonates, surgery, medical, orthopaedics, paediatrics, obstetrics, renal as well as an outpatient department. We are 2 permanent dieticians at the hospital and we rotate between all the departments on a weekly or monthly basis. We are very fortunate to gain experience in all the different specialised fields that the hospital offers.

I am also responsible for managing the budgets for the Dietetic Department, monitoring stock levels and placing orders to ensure that sufficient stock is always available.

I also attend all management related meetings and I am responsible for all Quality improvement programs involving the Dietetic Department.

 

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

The part that I enjoy the most is definitely feeding the critically ill patients, doing a thorough assessment of their condition, calculating their nutritional requirements and choosing a suitable product. Working in the paediatric ward is also a part of my work that I enjoy a lot, especially tending to the severely malnourished babies and children. With both of these scopes of patients, it’s very gratifying to see the big difference that proper nutrition can make in a short while and see my patients going home in a better condition.

Dihlabeng is a Mother and Baby Friendly hospital so I also have a lot of passion for breastfeeding and everything that goes with it. We really strive towards enabling all mothers to breastfeed successfully before they leave our hospital. We recently had a big event for World Breastfeeding Week where the aim was to empower parents and this then leads to a mother being able to successfully breastfeed her baby and to continue at home.

All the proceeds made on the day was used for our newly established Toiletry Project for the lodger mothers in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The aim of the project is to supply all the mothers with basic necessities for their stay in NICU.

Toiletry packs containing all the goodies for both mother and the baby

These mothers do so much for their tiny babies and sometimes stay there for up to 3 months (sometimes longer). We recognised the need to do something special for the mothers and that’s when the Project was born. We would like this to be an ongoing project, so anyone who is interested in donating or becoming involved in any way is more than welcome to contact us.

Furthermore, I also enjoy and appreciate the fact that we, at Dihlabeng Hospital, are able to work very well together as a multi-disciplinary team. This really makes all our jobs much easier. Especially me and my colleague, Nadine van Niekerk, we really work well together as a team to ensure that the Dietetics Department is run as smoothly and well as possible!
What has been your career highlight?

Wow, there are so many! But one of the highlights is definitely being accredited as a Mother and Baby Friendly Hospital in 2016. All of our staff put in a lot of effort and hard work to achieve this, so this was a very proud moment for us all.

And then, of course, our Breastfeeding Empowerment Day that we held for World Breastfeeding this year. It was a very gratifying experience for us as the dieticians and staff of DRH to be able to do this to show our support and dedication to breastfeeding!

 

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

It can be challenging to plan and decide which nutritional products to order due to dealing with budget constraints, but this also keeps our work interesting.

 

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

  • You’re a dietitian and you are eating that???
  • Can you give me a diet?
  • Asking about detox diets.

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