David - ICU & Stroke
Dietitians do THE BEST bring-in lunches! Always good when it is someone’s birthday.
Seriously though, nothing beats seeing a patient you have managed from the beginning of their hospital journey come through the other side with positive results! We also get to talk about food all day, which is almost like a hobby!
So many of the world’s health problems are attributable to poor nutrition, we NEED YOU to help us improve the lives of others.
David Aspinall, St Helens & Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
I have always had a keen interest in sport, physical activity, health and how nutrition complements them. I first learned about the profession during my undergraduate BSc Sport and Exercise Science degree at Sheffield Hallam University when my sports nutrition lecturer at the time provided information on it as a career pathway.
I was fascinated at how nutrients could improve someone’s exercise performance or even be used to heal someone suffering from illnesses. From then on, I strived to obtain experience in a variety of settings – shadowing hospital dietitians, working in gyms alongside personal trainers and gaining employment for a while as an NHS Health Trainer delivering public health messages in my local community. Once I had enough experience, I was accepted onto a Postgraduate Diploma in Dietetics at Leeds Beckett University where my dietetics career began!
I qualified in 2016 after completing a 2-year Postgraduate Diploma in Dietetics at Leeds Beckett University and completing clinical placements in Durham, Sunderland and Grimsby. I then secured a Band 5 rotational dietitian post at St Helens & Knowsley Teaching Hospitals covering care of the elderly, general medicine and surgical wards, whilst occasionally covering gastroenterology clinics and wards in absence of colleagues.
Having completed several competencies in treating patients requiring total parenteral nutrition (TPN) and joining the hospital’s Nutrition Team, I then secured a specialist Dietitian role split between ICU and Stroke.
The main requirements of the role are to prevent malnutrition caused by critical illness or stroke and decide the best possible feeding route and nutrition to improve the patient’s outcome. Both areas have brilliant teams and I work closely with colleagues from nursing, medicine, pharmacy and multiple other Allied Health Professional (AHP) backgrounds, which has been great!
In March 2020 COVID-19 happened! I was responsible for leading the Dietetics Department’s response to this as the intensive care unit was filling up fast. We had to quickly upskill dietitians in Trust who were unfamiliar working in with this setting. This enabled us to adopt a more streamlined approach and paperwork and nutritional protocols were adapted to aid the response, a lot of which are still in place today. A lot of the role required us to feed patients via nasogastric feeding tubes whilst they were unconscious to keep them strong enough to fight off the illness.
In March 2021, I delivered my first lecture to final year undergraduate dietetics students at Chester University on the Nutritional Management of the ICU patient. This was a proud day being on the other side of the classroom (even if I had to deliver it online via Microsoft Teams!). I have a keen interest in developing students and have been a student lead educator since 2018, working closely with universities.
I am currently in the process of completing my Masters research project looking into the dietetic management of constipation in mechanically-ventilated patients.
Right now, I'm away from the clinical role undertaking a secondment with the Cheshire & Merseyside Integrated Care System (ICS) as a Project Manager for the Allied Health Professions (AHP) Faculty. This has provided me an insight into the wider workings of system-level AHP workforce issues and enabled me to develop project management skills as well as improve my leadership capabilities.
I have been exposed to networks outside of my own Trust and had to engage quickly with a wide range of colleagues across multiple projects which will be valuable to me when returning to my clinical role and working on quality improvement projects.
This has also developed my wider, critical thinking and enabled me to understand more how the ’bigger picture’ looks in healthcare workforce development across a wide range of professions.