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Aoife - Cystic Fibrosis

Aoife Connolly
I see being a Dietitian as a privilege. I am fortunate to often feel I can support and encourage patients to become better, more energised versions of themselves and encourage them to live their fullest lives.
I have been a Dietitian now for 12 years and still feel I learn something new each day.

Working in a multi-disciplinary team environment is extremely rewarding.

I also get to teach student dietitians and mentor and coach more junior dietitians.

I feel my enthusiasm for dietetics grows and grows each year, what more can you ask for in a job?

Aoife Connolly, Blackpool Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

I am the Dietitian for the Blackpool Adult Cystic Fibrosis Service (BACFS). BACFS is a close-knit, highly supportive and encouraging team. The multidisciplinary team (MDT) is made up of 2 Nurses, a Dietitian, a Physiotherapist, a Pharmacist, a Clinical Psychologist, a Social Worker, an Administrative Assistant, a Service Manager and the specialist Doctors.

One of the main positives of my job is the multi-disciplinary teamwork aspect. I enjoy the skill mix of my varying colleagues and feel each day is a learning day. The nutritional needs of people with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) may differ to that of other people. As a specialist CF Dietitian, I consider a patient’s age, weight and height, lung function, symptoms, activity level and other health conditions. Particular focus is paid to gut and bowel health, assessing and treating pancreatic
insufficiency and screening and treating CF diabetes.

Some of my patients have gastrostomy tubes so enteral feeding needs to be considered in some cases also. However, due to ground-breaking advancements in treatment options for people with CF, the majority of our patients now have access to modulator therapies. These new medications are showing symptom improvement - preventing decline of lung function, improving quality of life and increasing life expectancy for people with CF.

As a result, nutrition focus has adapted with there now being more of a focus on ‘nutrition for health’ rather than disease related nutrition. I find I am working more closely with patients on topics such as intuitive eating, balanced nutrition, cardiovascular health and healthy habit formation.

I’ve always had a keen interest in nutrition and food but had a fear of hospitals so never thought I would become a clinical dietitian.

However, I took the plunge and did the PgDip in Dietetics at Glasgow Caledonian University with the goal of branching in to the more health promotion aspects of dietetics. I fell in love with clinical dietetics on my university placements. I've not looked back and have worked in hospitals ever since.

When I started my career as a Dietitian, jobs were scarce so I volunteered initially in a local hospital. I then worked as a dietetic assistant at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. My first dietetic job was a band 5 rotational post at University Hospital of South Manchester. In this role, I was afforded great learning opportunities and experience in varying specialities. After some time, I became a Band 6 Dietitian with the Heart and Lung Transplant Team that hospital and also worked on the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit. It was in this role I first met patients living with Cystic Fibrosis.

I worked with people before they received their lung transplant, on intensive care following lung transplant, and then worked alongside them and their specialist CF Dietitians supporting their recovery after transplant.

When the position arose to be part of a new team setting up a new Cystic Fibrosis service in Blackpool, I knew it was a rare and exciting opportunity I just had to do! I’ve been with the team now for 6 years as our service goes from strength to strength.

A person’s nutrition and dietetic health is primarily wrapped up in their physical and psychosocial wellbeing and their lifestyle habits. In effort to support people adequately, you often have to ask personal and sometimes quite sensitive information. I try to always treat my patients with respect and kindness and empower them to take control and understand their perceived barriers.