Meet the Dietitian: Community service series

By Danielle Smith

 

I studied dietetics at Stellenbosch University and Mia was at University of Cape Town, after her undergrad and an honours degree at SU. Both of us ended up graduating as dietitians at the same time last year. 

To our surprise, we both ended up being placed together at Themba Hospital for our community service! 

I decided to study dietetics because I have always been fascinated by the impact that a well-balanced diet can have on your well-being. I have a special interest in eating disorders and how to achieve holistic health. I thoroughly enjoy working in clinical and community settings. Mia is very passionate about paediatrics and loves both the community and clinical aspects of it. She hopes to study further regarding the first one thousand days and has a special interest in breastfeeding.

What surprised us was how much the Western Cape province differs from Mpumalanga! It was challenging to suddenly have such a big responsibility. Both Mia and I had to become used to the freedom that we suddenly had, without constant supervision or guidance. 

One of my favourite things from this year was having the opportunity to get to know my patients. It was also a lot of fun to be able to work alongside other allied health professionals with patients who required a multisectoral approach. Mia and I have been able to grow as dietitians, and have become confident with our role in a patient’s road to recovery. 

Mia and I have summarised a few points for any dietitian doing their community service in the near future:  

  • Thoroughly enjoy your time where you are placed! A year goes by so quickly, therefore be able to enjoy your time while your there. 
  • Remember to challenge yourself out of your comfort zone!
  • It’s so important to motivate yourself to constantly educate and update yourself with the latest research for our profession. You won’t be exposed to everything in your community service year, therefore it’s essential to participate in as many educational courses in the year as possible. 
  • Lastly, always promote our profession! Sometimes doctors and other health professionals do not understand or acknowledge the need for a dietitian. It is so important to advocate for the profession and to constantly show them what our role as dietitians are in the medical field. To this end, we started our own Instagram page: @ournutritionmission. We share case studies and really try to explain in easy terms what a dietitian’s role is in all settings.

Enjoy your time as a community service dietitian; soak in every moment, learn and grow as much as you can as both a dietitian and an individual. And most importantly, enjoy the journey! 

-Danielle & Mia

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