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Which postgraduate course did you study with us?

I studied a full-time MSc Nutrition and Dietetics degree.

What did you study for your undergraduate degree, and where did you study?

BSc (Hons) Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Reading.

Are you a UK, EU or International student?

I'm a UK student.

Why did you choose to study your postgraduate course?

When I was considering completing an undergraduate degree, I had an idea that I wanted to have a career as a dietitian. However, a few months prior to starting a course I also realised that I had developed an interest in food science. Completing an undergraduate degree in Nutrition and Food Science meant I could keep my options open. Throughout my undergraduate studies, I became increasingly aware that my passion remained in dietetics, and that I wanted to be able to use my nutritional knowledge to help people. I had a keen interest in working in a healthcare setting. To become a registered dietitian, I needed to complete an accredited dietetics degree. The MSc Nutrition and Dietetics course at the University of Chester was one of a select few courses that was available at the time of my application. And I felt this course most closely met my needs considering both the course itself and the University’s location, which I perceived would allow me to have a better work/life balance than the other universities offering dietetics postgraduate courses.

How did you fund your postgraduate study?

I was fortunate in that I was able to obtain funding for my postgraduate degree from Student Finance. Stopping the provision of NHS bursaries for dietetics degrees meant that funding for postgraduate dietetics courses was similar to that for undergraduate degrees. This meant that I received a loan from Student Finance to cover my course fees, and I received maintenance loans. I was reimbursed for all accommodation and travel expenses that I encountered on my clinical placements, making these affordable despite them often being a long way from Chester.

What did you learn on the course and what were the highlights?

The content of the course helped me to develop the skills and knowledge I needed to become a dietitian. The first year was primarily learning, assignments and exams. The second year was dedicated to completion of the two main clinical placements at NHS providers across the northwest of England. My highlights of the course included undertaking practical sessions exploring the challenges of cooking a meal for someone with dietary restrictions and being able to delve into the social and psychological barriers to behavioural change. We also participated in ward and clinic simulation exercises, which allowed me to practice my skills on my peers before I embarked on placements and treated actual patients.

How did you find the support from your Personal Academic Tutor (PAT)?

Support from my PAT was invaluable in ensuring that I was able to effectively participate in my studies. I had several concerns about my clinical placements due to my mental health. Therefore, we worked together to develop a reasonable adjustment plan, which allowed us to communicate my concerns about my placements to the placement providers, be confident that there was understanding of my concerns, and ensure that there was a plan in place to mitigate them. Whilst studying, I also accessed support from the Wellbeing and Mental Health team, who helped me to overcome the challenges that were affecting my studies.

What clubs, societies or other activities beyond your course did you take part in?

Alongside studying, I completed the Chester Difference Award and my University of Chester Volunteering Platinum Award. As part of this, I commenced a volunteering role at SPACE, which is a charity in Chester running play sessions for children with additional needs. This role allowed me to gain some valuable experience in communicating with disabled children and their parents, which is translatable to my current job role. I also continued my involvement in the Scouting Association by helping out at a local Beaver Scout Colony. However, my highlight was expanding my role as a Young Ambassador for Beat, the UK’s Eating Disorder charity, to become a University representative. With support from the Student Union and the Wellbeing team, I ran a session on eating disorders to members of staff as part of their Mental Health First Aid training course, hosted an awareness raising event during Eating Disorder Awareness Week and published an article in the University magazine. It was great to be able to make a difference to fellow students and members of the local community during my time at the University of Chester.

How did you organise your postgraduate study alongside your friends and family, work and other commitments?

Having gone straight into my postgraduate degree from undergraduate study, I was already used to having to balance lots of different commitments. This was helped by my hardworking nature, as well as my passion for my course. I was self-motivated and able to work efficiently during the time I had available to study due to my enjoyment of learning and developing new knowledge and skills relating to dietetics.

My time management skills were challenged most when I was completing my dissertation; my initial plans to look for a job once I was coming towards submitting my dissertation changed when my ideal job was advertised, and the first wave of COVID-19 hit. Due to the pressures on the NHS at the time, I ended up starting work only a few weeks after finishing my clinical placement. I deferred my dissertation deadline and planned to complete my dissertation alongside working full-time. This was incredibly stressful at times, particularly when COVID-19 pressures were high, and the last thing I wanted to do after spending all day in a busy hospital on COVID-19 wards was to study. It was also hard feeling isolated from University life, requiring a huge amount of self-motivation. Despite this, I found there were many benefits, which included having more time to complete my recruitment as I had up to four years to finish my project as opposed to only six months, allowing me to pursue participant recruitment until completion and enhancing the quality of my research. I also found that the knowledge I was developing in my job role was helpful in enhancing my interview skills and understanding of the topic area. Being able to earn a full salary at the same time as studying was also an added bonus and reduced the financial pressure I felt. The support of the University in granting me several deadline deferrals helped this change of plan to be possible; it allowed me to support the NHS through an unprecedented time, and embark on my career whilst also being able to complete my dissertation.

How has your postgraduate degree helped you with your career goals?

Following completion of my clinical placements, which allowed me to register with the Health Care Professionals Council, I started in a Band 5 rotational dietitian post at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT). I have now been working at ELHT for almost three years and have progressed into a specialist role in Home Enteral Feeding and Neurology. Due to the links that the University has with local NHS providers, I was fortunate enough to be able to complete my final placement at The Walton Centre, a leading specialist centre for neurology, which helped me to develop the passion and interest in working in a job role that had a strong enteral feeding and neurology aspect. The communication skills I developed during my voluntary role at SPACE, which I obtained through the University, also helped me to secure my dream specialist job role.

Since finishing my dissertation, I have presented at the British Dietetic Association’s annual research symposium and, thanks to the help and support from my supervisor, was honoured to be awarded best abstract in the New to Research Stream. I am hoping to have my dissertation published in a renowned journal in the field of eating disorders, so that my research can help inform improvements in the quality of care for patients. As well as continuing to develop in my current specialist dietetic role over the coming years, I am hoping to be able to use my research skills, which I have further developed throughout my postgraduate degree, to follow my passion for research and embark on further study in the near future.


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