Saturday, 17 March 2012


New Forest view, Feb 2012
The workload was so nearly under control the day before my long weekend.

I spent the morning on one of my wards and managed to review and discharge a handful of patients, a student Occupational Therapist had asked if she could shadow me at some point next week, a Speech and Language Therapist had just reviewed one of my patients and approved his return to solid food taken orally at last, and one of my favourite doctors was telling me his life story.

It was all going so well, and then a student turned up.

We'd had a departmental meeting the day before, my first. I've done my share of meetings, and this job seems to have far fewer than any job I've had before. We talked about which diet sheets need updating, the financial state of the NHS Trust in which we work, the policies around allowing people time off for courses and professional development, an update to the Bible of Hospital Dietetics (not its real name), and Students. We have three students in the department at the moment, all on their B placement, and the discussion was about their training plan, learning outcomes and how they are getting on. Among many other tasks, each student needs to write up a case study, which involves finding a patient who agrees to be the subject, and then researching their medical and dietetic treatment before presenting the results in written and oral form.

I should have kept my mouth shut, which I succeeded in doing for the best part of the meeting, but I feel enormous sympathy for the students, based on my own less than happy experiences. I may have mentioned that I had a whole load of patients with NG feeds on my wards, none of whom seemed to be going home, and some of whom might be good for case studies. It was this moment of loose talk that started the chain of events that led to the student turning up on my ward.

Normally a new dietitian has 3 months' grace before being expected to supervise a student - after all, I have only been there a month, and my confidence in my own abilities and knowledge is growing from a fairly slow start. Being observed by someone else and having to answer questions and justify my own practice is a little daunting so early in my career. And my workload is so nearly out of control all the time, and working with a student doesn't half slow you down.

Anyway, there she was, asking about the possible case study, and there I was, with a whole load of work. I remembered how wonderful my own B placement supervisor had been, and how she had made me feel as though I had her full attention and support for however long it took, and I tried to do the same. So now I am potentially supervising this case study, although I will try to see whether someone else with more experience could possibly do it instead.

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