The Many Faces of Healthcare: Registered Dietitian

Welcome back to The Many Faces of Healthcare series! Today’s post was written by the incomparable Kirsten Capp of the popular blog When discussing healthcare, it is a great reminder that the medical field is not for everybody, and within the medical field there are positions that do not suit everyone. There are many areas where we need to improve in differing aspects such as communication, teamwork and understanding each other and our roles. This will, obviously, greatly be dependent on where you work and who you work with. The following regards the frustrations which can occur between different roles in healthcare and how it can affect the individual.

Guest written by Kirsten Capp:

When I was first approached to contribute my story for this series I wasn’t quite sure where to start. Unfortunately, it wasn’t because I didn’t have anything to say when it came to the topic of frustrations and things that have helped or hurt my quality of care when it came to my patients. I have plenty to say on that front. Let me preface this by saying that I have not worked in clinical care since 2013. My short-lived experiences were enough to turn me off to the entire notion of hospital care. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

I started out in a completely different career path as an art/graphic design major before switching to a science-based degree and majoring in dietetics, so I could become a registered dietitian. Part of me knew that clinical care wasn’t for me, especially with my artistic background. I knew I would be unfulfilled in clinical care but in order to become a dietitian, I had to complete a 9-month, 1200-hour unpaid clinical dietetic internship. So, I sucked it up and applied for internships. Nothing could have prepared me for how traumatizing hospital work would be, though.

First off, the other dietitians were cruel and not compassionate in the slightest, which I found really ironic since they worked in a hospital. Their job was to help others. I had a hard time working with most of them, but what really frustrated me was the hospitals views on patients themselves. They saw patients as numbers. They did not treat them as human beings.

The reason I became a dietitian was to help people. I would often spend extra time with my patients because most of them were sad, lonely, scared, etc. I also mostly worked with elderly patients and their families didn’t visit often. Therefore, I would spend extra time with them to brighten their day. Now I did have an underlying motive, happier patients were more likely to work with me rather than against me when it came to their diet education and lifestyle changes. That, however, wasn’t my sole motivation for spending extra time with my patients. I really wanted to make their hospital stay a bit more pleasant, and if they happened to also eat more because of that then great!

However, the hospital and my preceptors eventually caught on to the fact that I wasn’t just moving from patient to patient. They told me I needed to basically act like a robot and just get through patient after patient and spend as little time with them as possible. Sorry, that’s not gonna fly with me. If it were my family member, I would want the healthcare team spending the extra time. And you know what? Every single patient of mine and their families loved me because I gave my patients that extra attention and quality of care. My preceptors, however, did not see it that way. They just saw it as me wasting time, and they would yell at me. A lot. To the point that I would often go home in tears on a pretty daily basis.

Edited from a photo by ja ma on Unsplash

The other frustrations I had were, I hate to say it, but with some of the nurses, as well. Now let me preface this by saying that not all nurses were bad to work with. I worked with some great nurses and some not so great nurses. I really hesitated to write this portion because I don’t want to get attacked, but there are certain things nurses need to be aware of so that we can all work together to provide the best care for the patient. First off, I would get chewed out a lot for “bothering” the nurses to ask about my patients’ appetites. They told me that I needed to learn how to do my job and to stop bothering them with trivial questions. Ok… part of my job as a dietitian is trying to figure out how my patient is actually* eating, so I know how to adjust their nutrient needs.

I can’t do my job properly and give the patient the quality care they deserve if I don’t have the full picture. Patients and their families tend to lie or bend the truth when it comes to intake. So, I would ask multiple people on the healthcare team in an effort to get a full, accurate picture of how the patient was eating as well, as their bathroom habits (that also effects my recommendations). The problem was that some of the nurses thought I just called them for shits and giggles. Look, I hate calling people so it’s not like I enjoyed this part of my job, and I wouldn’t do it if it weren’t necessary.

Second, we were all there to provide the best care for the patients. Another thing that the nurses I worked with liked to do was diet education, which was technically my job. Now, I understand that some nurses are qualified to give diet education and that’s great. The more people that can help relay the information to the patient the better. However, some patients were not ready to be bombarded with all of the information at once. I mainly worked with newly diagnosed diabetic patients, so it was my job to start them off with basic guidelines to follow and go from there.

While I was educating, I was also gauging how much my patient was understanding and retaining, so I knew just how much information to give them without overwhelming them. The issue was that some of the nurses would often educate the patient with information that I wasn’t ready to give to my patients just yet. I understand that the nurses were trying to help, but I really needed them to understand that I had reasons for giving the information in the manner that I was. Maybe in instances like this where there might be a multi-team approach to the education, it could help for the dietitian and the nurses to discuss the plan for education beforehand so that they are all on the same page.

One part of the team that I think doesn’t get enough recognition are the nutrition service attendants. I became fast friends with them! Not only were they nice to me, but they spent a lot of time with the patients. Therefore, they were able to get a lot of information from them and relay it to me. They were always willing to work with me to help out with the patients. Please don’t ignore the nutrition attendants, they are such valuable members of the healthcare team!

I mentioned that I no longer work in the clinical field, so you may be thinking what do I do? While I worked in the hospital there were several opportunities for me to make infographics and things of the sort to relay nutrition information. The entire healthcare team started calling me the “creative” dietitian because I was particularly good at relaying information in a fun, visually appealing format (hello art/graphic design background). That is when I found my true calling. I found that I do better with working “behind the scenes” as it were.

I now use my social media platforms to share my knowledge about nutrition. I can also reach a lot more people through social media than I could working in the hospital. I have had so many people reach out and tell me how I have helped them in one way or another, be it helping them with overcoming disordered eating, changing the way they view healthy food, or inspiring them get back in the kitchen and learn how to cook again. I love being a dietitian. I just didn’t love being one in the hospital. Maybe if the hospital starts viewing its patients as actual people I will change my tune. For now, though, I am happy with what I’m doing.

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The Many Faces of Healthcare: Introduction and Guest writer Kate, Respiratory Nurse

There are many faces of healthcare and each role is very different, even under the same credentials (nurse, doctor, etc). There are many wonderful things that health providers experience, and many not so great things. The stories we have are many and range in emotion from gut-busting laughter to tear jerking.  Sometimes we work superbly as a team, and other times not so much. There is an underlying lack of ability to communicate what we do, what things hinder our jobs, and such on the job without potential repercussions. The purpose of this series, “The Many Faces of Healthcare,” is to shine a light on the many roles of the healthcare worker (from housekeeping to physicians), their stories, their frustrations, create a conversation that we are unable to do within the workplace, and to help educate others to help us create the best care teams possible. I want to note that in this I am considering the patient as part of the care team, as they should be.

These entries are guest written by individuals who explain their experiences in their own words. Their experiences are personal to them. Understand that we may touch on sensitive subjects from time to time but let’s please keep the conversation civil even with disagreements. However, I would love to see a good conversation going with these posts, even if only to acknowledge the guest writer for their work.

Without further ado, the first guest writer is the lovely Kate (See the bottom of the post for links to her social media and blog! Check it out!). She is a respiratory nurse in a British hospital.


It’s hard to pick one story out of so many experiences, I find I’m often drawn to death and dying, maybe because it’s one of the most impactful, tragic and unique experiences we have to go through daily as nurses. So although I seem to write a lot about it, I think this will be a little more about the experience of being a nurse in the whole, though the amount of work I do in day I don’t think I will be able to fit in one story. This particular shift handover is an amalgamation of many shifts.

Five in the morning I’m apprehensive, which isn’t unusual for many a nurse (and/or many other professions). I feel utter dread at the thought of going to work. I know this is rather depressing but it’s hard to explain the absolute love/hate relationship nurses have with their job. At the hospital I pull up on the side of the busy road where I regularly park. Traffic slowly buzzes past my car and I laugh at the comedic dark thought that jut drifted through my head, something about if I were hit by a car. The hospital would be ringing to ask me when I could get back to work before I had even left the emergency department.

I can feel my stomach grumbling, as I stupidly haven’t eaten breakfast. This early in the morning I just can’t eat without feeling sick, so I just don’t. The feeling isn’t just hunger, it’s concern and anxiety. How is the day going to be? Will we have enough staff? Will I get put in the bay with the biggest work load for the third time in a row? Will I have to do CPR today? Will I give bad news? Will there be many people going home? What will I learn? Will I make a mistake? My head is packed with millions of thoughts flitting in and out of my mind.

A few of us stand around in a small office, not many people today. We will be sharing our axillary nurses, who will be pulled in a million different directions. I walk into my bay, there are three different packs of people. Two groups are congregated around the two beds at the end, and I can see a group with the curtains pulled partially around one of the beds at the front of the bay. We have two very poorly patients my colleague says, both are on non-invasive ventilation (NIV), both have chronic obstructive lung disease, one seems to be getting better, and one seems to be getting worse.

The lady that is seeming to get worse, is on observation every fifteen minutes. I look over the bed at the lady and smile. A very old pair of big brown eyes look back as she flashes a weak smile. Her family all look dreadful, as they see us they anxiously ask if we can try her on the bed pan. I nod and smile. “That will be fine we will just finish the hand over and we will get to her,” I say, “I’ll try and get an auxiliary to help me.” They are thankful.

We move on to the next lady who is having a break from her NIV, she’s smiling and laughing with her family, most of whom seem much more well rested than the previous family. She is much better now and her oxygen levels are improving and blood gases are improving. Overnight she had been much more like the first lady, my heart feels better, and I remind myself that out first lady will get through. I make a quick wish for her.

Another two ladies in the bay are also on Intravenous (IV) antibiotics. These two ladies are much healthier than the previous two, one is pulling her drip along to go and get herself dressed. She’s a really pretty elderly lady with mousy features and a lovely smile.

“Do you need anything?” I ask her as she passes by.

Smiling back with a sad smile, “No, I’m fine dear. You have a lot of work to do.”

She’s right I do, but I don’t want her to go without because of my work load. I can see she has no towels, so I make a note to quickly nab some for her and check she is ok after finishing handover.

The next lady I have looked after over the past two weeks, she has a huge smile across her face.

“Hello lovely!” getting up off her bed she gives me a massive bear hug. Being a larger lady she squeezes me until I squeak. “I’m going home!” She clasps her hands over her mouth with glee, “And the doctor said I can go to Florida for my daughter’s wedding!”

“Thank god!” I laugh with her, I move out of her grasp smiling widely, “We would have never heard the end of it if they had said no!”

Playfully she hits my shoulder laughing,

“I’m not that grumpy,” laughing hard, she does a little dance on the spot. I join in laughing.

“Go and get a wash so you can get going then!” I add, as she gathers her things and skips off towards the shower room. I quickly make a note to get her discharge papers and medication sorted out, after I have got everyone washed and dressed.

We get to the last lady who is behind the curtain with her family. I hear the beep of her syringe driver, quietly poking out from under the pillow.  This lady has a lot of family surrounding her, they look worse than the first lady’s family did. I can see that the old man sitting next to her holding her hand has been crying. He looks like my grandad, and she looks like my grandma. He looks away from me, he doesn’t want me to know he’s sad. Pictures surround her bed of them when they were younger getting married, with young children and going on holiday. It makes me sad too, but I don’t cry, I don’t want to look like I can’t cope. This lady should have a side room so she can die with more dignity, but there are none left. The smell of old coffee from the tea tray drifts around my head. It’s mixed with the eerie clinically clean smell, which is at every hospital.

“I’ll get that!” I say, manoeuvring around family members and squishing myself against the wall to get to it.

“You should be a contortionist!” The lady says, with a tired laugh.

“I know there’s never enough space!” I grin at her, I have heard the joke many a time before, but I humour her, maybe it gives her a bit of relief.

Wandering off with the syringe driver under my arm, I know I have a hard day ahead, but I have this feeling in my stomach because I know I’m making a difference. I’m hopeful and determined to try and get my ladies that are ill better. I’m sad because I know one of my ladies is going to pass away, and her family is going to be devastated. I’m happy because I know I am sending one lady home who deserves to see her daughter get married in Florida, and I am motivated to patch all of their problems, if I can. I have a reason for being here.

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