By Nicoli Haasbroek

“Trust the process!”

No one would ever really know what a dietitian does until they are on the receiving end of our services. I remember another health professional saying to me that she never really knew what a dietitian does until her mother was hospitalised and treated by a. That is when she realised the impact that our profession has on all our patients.

Becoming a dietitian never crossed my mind, until I went to the open day at Kovsies – because even I was not sure about what dietetics encompasses. Afterwards, I went home and immediately applied for this four-year BSc degree not knowing what I was getting myself into. When I received the message from the University of the Free State notifying me of my acceptance I was ecstatic! Before I knew it, this city girl loaded her car to start her dietetics journey in Bloemfontein. After the first week, I knew that dietetics chose me.

At the end of the year, I found out that I was placed at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital (CMJAH), formerly known as Joburg Gen, which was my first choice (#blessed). Cut to, I have just started my last month of the community service year at CMJAH and what a year it has been! I remember in my first few days asking “is it normal to feel like I don’t know ANYTHING?!”. That feeling only lasted until the end of that week as I remembered that I possess a lot of knowledge.  Another thing that scared me, in the beginning, was that out of my whole fourth-year class which consisted of a total of seven girls, yes, seven, I was the only one placed in Gauteng. I felt lost, alone, nervous and only slightly excited. Now I wouldn’t trade the people who walked through this year with me.

Currently, I am doing my final block in the orthopaedic and vascular wards, but previously I was in infectious diseases, GIT surgery, neurology, radiation oncology, paediatrics, neonatal and obstetrics & gynaecology. I was also responsible for various outpatient clinics (slimming, general clinic, new-born clinic, lipid clinic and supplementation). Through these wards and with all the patients I have treated, it was once again made clear to me that paediatrics is my passion. What a beautiful thing when passion and purpose collide!

To future Comm Serves:

  • Take it all in! This year goes by very fast and before you know it it’s time to start looking for a new job.
  • If you feel clueless during the first few weeks – it’s okay because you are not alone!
  • Don’t be scared to ask questions and learn from your colleagues including the multidisciplinary team, seniors and peers.
  • Don’t forget that you are treating a person and not just a disease condition.
  • Make a difference where and when you can.
  • Take care of yourself.
  • Spend your hard-earned money wisely 😉

Most important; the experience you have this year, what you learn & what you make of this year ALL DEPENDS ON YOU!


By Dur-e-nayab Burki

As the name Solanum Lycopersicum is not commonly said, neither is mine.

Hello everyone, my name is Dur-e-nayab Burki and like the word mentioned before, not everyone calls me by it, instead, they call me Nayab or Nabi for short as it is easy, the same way we call Solanum Lycopersicum a tomato. Simple really!

I am currently a community service dietitian, working at Witbank Provincial Hospital, which is located in Mpumalanga. It’s an hour from home, but still a little distant. To be honest, I never saw myself becoming a dietitian, All I knew after graduating from matric was I wanted to study in Varsity and the fact that my Dad is a doctor, I leaned more towards health sciences.

I applied for BSc Dietetics at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU), previously known as MEDUNSA. In my 4th year of studying, I did my internship for Therapeutic nutrition in Dr George Mukhari Hospital, as well as my Foodservice training, where I learned more theoretically. Later, I was transferred to Jubilee Hospital, where I learned more practically. I did my Community block in Phedisong, a clinic in Ga-Rankuwa.

Yes, it was overwhelming, but asking for help when needing it was the step needed to overcome the fear of the unknown and extremely emotional rollercoaster ride. But in the end, when I look back – with all the support from my classmates, supervisors, lecturers, friends and family, I said ‘that was worth it!’ and ‘I made it!’- the most satisfying feeling ever.

My Community service year has thought me that you are in control of what you decide to do with this year. Yes, new experiences are part of It, but working alongside other medical professions, such as OT’s, SLT’s, PT’s, Nurses and other medical staff actually showed me how important my role as a dietitian is. What’s even more important is educating them about my role as a dietitian for a patient. To give a patient the correct NF feed is Crucial in their treatment, however to others, any feed is fine!

I’ve also learned from a nurse, when working in neo-natal ICU, about how to do continuous feeds of EBM, when resources are limited, to use an IV bag – interesting right?

One major thing I’m excited to report is the amount of emphasis I have put on referring patients with any nutritionally affected conditions, to the doctors I know, my dad and sister. And I have seen changes to their mindset when working with patients because they always ask ‘ hey Nabi do we refer patients with renal dysfunction & HPT with low appetite to Dietitians?’ and I reply ‘ Yes. Please!’. Changing one doctor’s perspective at a time is a small step to making a big change.

Also use the opportunity to ask your colleagues as well – learn from their experiences, because by the time you start enjoying this year with all you learn, it has already gone by. (To Esme and Loren – thank you for this year).