Meet the Dietitian: Community service series

By Leandré Piek

“Flexibility is key”

I remember doing a “personality test” during my dietetics studies that pointed out that I’m as flexible as a rock, not having the ability to eagerly adapt to new and unexpected environments and changes. This was true of me since I absolutely love structure, or so I thought.

As I entered my last year in high school, I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life – but I knew it would be something in medicine and health sciences. It was thus appropriate to go to the open day at the Tygerberg Campus of Stellenbosch University, hoping that I would find some clarity!

Thank you to the 4th years at the dietetics stall who convinced me to choose dietetics as my future profession. With no plan B, I applied for the 4-year course, and by grace, I got accepted. With lots of grace, I got through the 4 years to where I am now!

Where am I now? Not in the Western Cape where I was hoping to be placed (I think a few can relate to this). No, I was placed at Kakamas Hospital in the Northern Cape, and can I just say how grateful I am for being Afrikaans!

During my comserve year I am getting the best of both worlds – a mixture of all there is to dietetics. I work in the hospital, at clinics, see out-patients, work in the food service unit, do training and health talks and manage a Severe Acute Malnutrition Project in the district. I absolutely love the variety, although it took me some time to get used to everything. It is not all textbook work, and it is normal to swim a bit before finding solid ground.

One thing that I can encourage is, to ASK QUESTIONS! Don’t be afraid to learn from others or to show vulnerability. After 4 years of studying, you know a lot, but you don’t know everything. After the anxiety and uncertainty of my comserve placement, I am extremely grateful for the journey so far.

In a rural setting, you must work with what you have, and this has improved my ability to be flexible and think out of the box! But it is absolutely what you make of it – how you see every opportunity, how you build relationships, how you treat other people, and how you keep on trying to do better.

Don’t be afraid to be flexible – it opens new doors that you didn’t know you needed.