Laura - Cheshire and Merseyside Adolescent Eating Disorder Service
Laura Brownlow, Cheshire & Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
I currently work within a Tier 4 adolescent eating disorder service working with both inpatients & outpatients as well as offering a Dietetic service to the child and adolescent mental health inpatient unit based in Chester.
I work within a team consisting of Consultant Psychiatrists, Specialist Doctors and Nurses, Clinical Psychologists & Specialist Therapists.
My main roles involve:
- initial nutritional intake assessment;
- maximising the meal plan to support weight gain & nutritional balance;
- ensuring that appropriate deficiencies are assessed & supplemented if relevant;
- providing psychoeducation to the young person & families regarding macro & micro-nutrients, distorted feelings of hunger or satiety, nutrition & metabolism, compensatory behaviours, fluids & constipation, fluids & diuretics, over-eating/bingeing, puberty & effects on menstruation.
This role also involves providing staff training regarding Dietetics & eating disorders as well as offering advice & training to other acute & community Dietitians when dealing with service users with eating disorders.
So, this all started back in 1993 when I showed at interest in Dietetics whilst at school, however, was told that jobs were sparse at that time so I should instead work in the Food Industry. I did a BSc in Food Science & Nutrition to then start work within the development, processing & technical areas of food production. I graduated from Food technologist to Food Development & Technical Manager working with major retailers in the UK & abroad to get food products from concept to launch in-store involving, development, costing, factory pilot production, shelf-life testing, organoleptic assessments, packaging development & transport trials.
I loved this job for a number of years, however, the very competitive nature of the world of retail became too toxic for me and I decided I needed to retrain. I came to the end of a maternity cover contract & decided enough was enough.
I took some time out to travel to Cameroon to volunteer, teaching biology and nutrition in a nursing school. When I returned and visited an adult career advise service Dietetics was still top of the list as a career to pursue.
I completed some supplementary modules in Biochemistry, Anatomy and Physiology to bridge my skills gap, then worked as a full-time care worker for people with complex care needs before moving onto the postgraduate course in Nutrition & Dietetics.
The best thing about being a Dietitian...
seeing young people successfully discharged from the service knowing that I have had a significant input in their road to recovery.
Dietitians are great because we are able to become specialists in a very wide variety or clinical areas.
It can be challenging, rewarding and can lead to working within multiple specialist areas, covering all age groups from paediatrics to gerontology.
Dietitians also have the opportunity to get involved in research, service improvement, team management, student training & building the profile of dietitians across the NHS as well as the wider health & care landscape.