Erin Kennedy is a Dietitian for Peninsula Health.
What does a dietitian do, and what are your main responsibilities?
I’m a clinical dietitian, so I work in aged care rehab with in-patients. I basically ensure that their nutrition is managed appropriate to their needs, so making sure we’re treating and preventing malnutrition [and] making sure their specific diseases such as diabetes and dementia are managed through nutrition.
What would a typical day involve?
We have team meetings, where we discuss as a team with dietitians, physiotherapists, nursing staff and doctors, about each patient and how they’re going in rehab. I’ll then see patients on the ward, and review how they’re going. Things like how they’re eating, what their weight is, how they’re feeling, and review how we can help manage that through nutrition therapy.
What attracted you to the job?
Well, clinical dietetics in general, just working in a hospital system, really it was the people contact. For me, I found nutrition was a really useful career to be in because it’s so relevant to health, and I was always interested in working in health, particularly medical related health, and food has such a big impact on people’s quality of life ... It’s really, really rewarding to work with patients to decide what sort of foods and nutrition therapies we can use to help them feel better and get better.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
For me it’s the teamwork and the environment that I work in. So it’s not just sitting down one-on-one with the patients, it’s dealing with all the different team members at the place where I work and working together to really help improve the health of a patient. I find it rewarding working with sicker people as well, because a lot of them don’t have much control over their medical treatment when they’re in hospital, but in terms of food we really have a role of working with the patient to decide what they like to have.
What kind of person is suited to this job?
You’ve definitely got to be a people person. You’ve got to be a compassionate person. A good listener, someone who really cares about how people feel and what they want. But you also need to be quite driven and willing to learn and continue to develop on your knowledge, because evidence isalways changing in terms of health.
Starting salary: $45,000.
Course: Kennedy did a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics at Deakin University, although it’s becoming more common for aspiring dietitains to do an undergraduate degree in food or health sciences before doing a masters of dietetics.
Length: Four years.