So 2019 has been one crazy year! Boris as PM, Greta Thunberg smashing the war against climate change and dare I say it…. brexit. But in my own little crazy world, I’ve been finishing my five years at university with the hardest year yet. After six months of placements, I’ve finally finished university! So what’s next? Well of course, starting my career. I’m pretty lucky in the fact there is a lot of job opportunities in the Dietetics world so most graduates get stuck into employment pretty quickly. At the end of July, I started my first ever job in the Dietetic industry. I thought in this blog today I’d answer a few commonly asked questions I get regarding starting your first job within Dietetics.
How did I get my job?
So for me, it was a pretty standard application. Despite my job not being with the NHS (I’ll talk about that later), I applied through nhsjobs.uk – it’s pretty simple. You set up an account and search for the jobs you want. So for me I searched “dietitian” and selected within a 50 mile radius (as I was willing to commute) and looked at what was available. Now here ALL dietetic and also a few AHP jobs will come up, so just see if there’s any for you. As a new graduate, I was looking for band 5 roles.
Once you’ve seen a job you like, start filling out the application form and answer the supporting information questions to the best of your ability, referencing back to the job and person specifications. Once you’re all done, submit! NHS jobs luckily saves all your fields too for future applications to save you time, especially if you’re applying for a handful! Once it’s submitted, you should here back after the closing date whether you’ve been unsuccessful or you’ve been invited for interview.
My interview was pretty good. I’d had a job interview at the beginning of the year which didn’t go as well, so it was good to have something to go off. I prepared case study answers and example questions, and I also had to prepare a short presentation on the essentials of being a community Dietitian. I also took the time to ask extra questions at the end about my interviewers roles and how they enjoy their time at the company. I got a phone call later in the day whilst I was on the wards at B placement and I was ecstatic to have been offered the job!
How do you deal with rejection?
There’s no doubt, rejection is hard. For someone who’s usually picked up any part time job pretty easy, entering the profession is a bit of a shock. As I was applying as a B student, I wasn’t totally qualified and my knowledge wasn’t up to a band 5 level, so of course I was going to face rejection at some point. I applied for quite a few jobs and didn’t get invited for interview, which was sad. All you have to do is keep your head up high and keep looking – the right job will come at the right time for you. I of course, had two interviews: one for the job I got and one for one I didn’t. I applied for an acute trust position and it was my first experience of a professional interview. 10 questions on dietetic practice, my skills and trust values. I didn’t get the job, but I’m so glad I did the interview as it was invaluable experience which helped me massively. The service lead was lovely enough to say how impressed she was with my answers for someone only on their second week of B placement, where she gave me feedback on my strengths and weaknesses and how I can improve next time. I kinda knew deep down I didn’t get the job before I heard, but it’s still a bit deflating to here you didn’t get something – but I took this as an experience, not a failure.
What’s it like NOT working for the NHS?
A question I get ALL the time. And you know the answer? Not much different. Essentially, dietitians have to follow the same guidelines and protocols to practise safely and effectively and that doesn’t change just because it’s not the NHS. My company still had company values and goals for you to achieve. My team was a lot smaller, granted, but there is still the amazing support network you get in the NHS. I had a band 7 supervisor and manager too, where I still get supervision sessions and set goals and targets for my profession and practice. I’d say the only major difficulty is working with other AHPS, as all other AHPS in my locality were based in the NHS, so you can’t easily share records and communications. This basically involves lots of emailing and telephone calls, but you can still access information eventually. Fun things is we don’t wear a uniform (although I secretly miss the tunic life), we have our own sets of rewards but we still get to run clinics in both private and NHS establishments.
How long does it take to get your HCPC?
Oh registration, to be honest it does take a while. You can basically apply once you’ve had your final classification from uni and it takes a couple of weeks. Unfortunately as I did a postgraduate course, my final result wasn’t released until the September so I’m still actually waiting for my registration! However it should be through ANY DAY as some of my course mates have had there’s now and I literally cannot wait!
Filling out the application is easy and you just need proof of ID to send off with it too. Once you’ve been confirmed, you’re on the register and can start practising legally as a Registered Dietitian (a title protected by law).
Can you work as a dietitian without your HCPC?
Simple answer, no. It’s illegal and unsafe to practise without registration. However, most jobs are aware that recently qualified students have to wait a while for it to come through but are eager to work, so with companies discretion, they may be able to offer you employment at a lower band (usually band 4) until your registration comes through, when you can then start working at a band 5 level. My company luckily we’re able to do this for me so I’ve been working as a Assistant Practitioner whilst awaiting my registration – this is basically a level higher than a Dietetic Assistant as you require a nutrition degree for this role (for those not awaiting dietetic registration).
What do you do in your current role?
So my current role is really good as it’s hands on! I work within nutrition support and I do reviews of patients in a variety of settings. There’s also lots of admin tasks such as telephone reviews, letter writing, supplement ordering and triaging referrals. I get all my work countersigned by a band 6 as I’m still awaiting registration, but this will stop once it’s through. Once my registration is through, I will also be able to see initial assessment patients too.
Is it hard going from student to professional?
It can seem daunting being “finally set free”, but C placement and consolidation really sets you up and prepares you. Your supervisors on placement won’t let you finish placement until they’re happy and confident with you, so once you’ve passed you’ve just gotta have confidence in yourself! Otherwise, the only thing I think hard is adjusting to new protocols and systems, like starting any new job! You soon get the hand of it and you’ll soon be part of the team. I spent my first week shadowing, so I felt like I’d taken a few steps back, BUT this was massively helpful in settling in and seeing people’s styles of practice. I’m really lucky that I had such a great first team but I’m sure most of you will too!
So, what’s next?
So as you may no, my service is changing over to the NHS next week so I’ll be starting my new job with a new MDT of various AHPS and nurses – this is super scary but I’m excited to develop a new set of skills and get the opportunity to work with a wider team. And I’m getting to wear a tunic again, yay!
I hope this answered a few of your questions and gave you a little insight into getting your first job in the industry – if you’ve got any other questions don’t hesitate to get in contact!
Emma is a Registered Dietitian and Registered Associate Nutritionist based in Cheshire, England. Emma works in community healthcare and writes freelance alongside her work: topics including Dietetic life, nutrition, mental health and lifestyle. Emma also writes and photographs recipes for the platform, as well as being the author of the ‘Mummy and Me’ series for SR Nutrition. Emma’s Food Stories is PR friendly brand.