As a Dietetic Assistant in Oxfords Adult eating disorder service Kirstie has a very varied role
My DA role in an eating disorder unit entails food ordering and menu organisation, working closely with the nursing team and Dietitian to ensure mealtimes run efficiently. I conduct regular catering surveys for patient’s feedback, helping to improve the service delivered to patients and I offer regular support to patients with menu choices/making decisions, building on variety and setting goals, such as challenges around fear foods. Taking patients out for snacks is also as big part of supporting patients, as this helps to build on their individual needs and to work towards independent snacks.
Another support worker (Occupational Therapy Technician Instructor – OTTI) and I facilitate groups to support patients’ recovery. The first group is a snack out group, which looks not only at having a snack but also requires patients to spend money on themselves, order for themselves, eat in public and fundamentally focuses more on socialising. This is important as socialising is essentially removed from life when the eating disorder takes over. The second group we facilitate is the dining goals group; this group was created through a research study that the Dietitian and the QI team have been conducting, the purpose of which is to improve the dining room experience for patients. The group helps patients to identify eating disordered behaviours and set goals by talking through skills and strategies as a group.
My role being dedicated to the organisation of all food provisions reduces the amount of time ward staff are preparing each meal, leaving more time to focus on supporting patients and allowing patients to discuss any concerns around mealtimes before going into the dining room. The groups that I co-facilitate help empower patients to start taking back control within a controlled environment. We also employ a CBT-E (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – Eating Disorders) approach throughout all of our sessions; this enables patients to understand the cycles that underpin the eating disorder and start to set challenges to combat the eating disorders thoughts.
I was really attracted to being a DA having finished university doing a nutrition degree and being a mature student. It gives me the ability to practice areas of my degree, but also have development opportunities and build on my strengths, especially as mental health was a new setting for me to work in. This job role has given me great opportunities to improve patient care and be part of the team, as well as building my skills and confidence for the future, while still managing to maintain a good family and work life balance.
In terms of building on skills and development, most of the learning is on the job and shadowing was a valuable experience for me. It really helps to see difficult conversations take place about the patients’ health, patients view of their care and how staff respond in a professional manner. It also highlights just how important it is to spend time with patients and learn what works best for them and how they are responding to treatment. Additional training like CBT-E and DBT (Dialectical behaviour therapy) are types of talking therapy that can be vital in changing a patient’s thought process, just by having a basic understanding has help me to be confident that the support and time with the patients is of value and can have a big impact.
I am most proud of establishing and leading a new group and working with the patients and staff to improve patients care. For anyone thinking of being a support worker, it really is a great way of building on your career or seeing where your career could go, am excited for my future in Dietetics.