Why I Love Being an Aged Care Dietitian
So you think you may be heading down the clinical dietitian pathway, or are already there, but you’ve realised it’s not ticking all of your boxes? Are you feeling unsettled and maybe looking around to see what else is out there? Or you can’t get the job you want because there just aren’t enough clinical positions to go around?
Yep, that was me too.
I worked solely in clinical/ hospital roles for 2 years and wondered why I felt unsettled. It was actually incredibly disheartening, wasn’t this what I had studied all those years at uni for? And then I felt like I didn’t fit. But I persevered, combining a clinical job with aged care consulting for 7 years…. Yes 7 years!!! It seems I was a little bit of a slow learner, but truthfully I just didn’t know if I had what it took to solely work in aged care, or if I even wanted to.
Round peg, square hole.
But what else is there? It seems to be so heavily biased towards clinical or hospital dietetics, when there are so many other people in other settings that can benefit from our input. When I finished uni, I had no interest whatsoever in aged care, my perception was that it was boring! Isn’t it just treating malnutrition all day every day?
Where did I formulate that idea from? It wasn’t from experience or from anyone that I had spoken to, there weren’t really many dietitians working in aged care at that time (at the risk of sounding old…). Maybe from working in hospital rehab and geriatrics wards? Geez I was so wrong!
Here are the reasons why aged care works for me, and why I am so passionate about it:
1. Variety: in the working environment (no Groundhog Day for me thanks!), in meeting different residents with diverse and often complex needs, family members and staff of the facilities (carers, nurses, catering staff, management), and addressing different priorities depending on the site. Some days I’m in the kitchen recipe testing or developing recipes for a new menu or a specialised diet. Other days I’m working on a project that I see needs to be implemented, or training staff on meal time processes in the dining room. Every day is different, and most of the time my days schedule is decided by ME!
2. Flexibility: I love setting my own hours and days. I work hard, but I didn’t like having to turn up at work at a specific time and have my lunch break at a designated time. I’m an adult and I like to decide that for myself! I love being able to say yes to more of the things that I love doing and that I am good at, for example menu reviews and recipe development.
3. Challenges: as Gregg (Executive Chef) told me when I asked for feedback about what I do well, I like to “CSI the heck out of a problem and work out a solution that works for everyone”. I like being able to take a complex issue and break it down to reverse engineer a pathway to solve the challenge. Whether it be about meal time services or a technical medical issue for an individual resident, I love needing to think outside the box and turning it into a practical solution.
This often involves providing education to make sure that the problems don’t return, because no one likes to change long term without seeing a valid reason to. This may look more clinically technical when developing a care plan in a multi-disciplinary team, or it may involve simplifying information for staff who may not have English as their first language.
4. I’m a total foodie!
I love seeing the enjoyment on people’s faces when they are enjoying their food. I realised that I didn’t need to cook the food personally to feel a part of the process, but I can be an important cog in the wheel that makes this happen. Plus I get to work with passionate and skilled chefs, create recipes and develop menus - winning!
5. Running my own business - now I know that this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it has huge advantages that I know are important to me. I can choose the facilities that I work with, who align with my values and will work together to improve food quality overall.
I get to set my own consulting rates - I don’t have to be paid what my employer thinks my time is worth. I can set my rates with confidence based on the results that I know I will achieve for my contracts.
So why not look into aged care as a career direction as a dietitian? If you’re not working in dietetics because you can’t find a job or you're bored with your current career path but you're not sure what to do next, let’s have a chat to see if this is something that can work for you.
Click on the Dietitian Hub page and book a discovery call with me to chat, there’s a highly profitable and personally rewarding career waiting for you. The time is now, get onto it!