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Sarah - Dietitian Manager

Sarah Parker, Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust

I came into Dietetics through an unusual route. When I left school having taken Home Economics A-level, I knew I didn’t want to be a Home Economics teacher, or a chef and I wanted to combine nutrition with business. So I went to study a degree at Sheffield Hallam University called Food Management & Marketing which was similar to business studies but all our learning was related to the food industry and nutrition. I then got my first job as a Food Buyer for Asda supermarkets and worked in the head office in Leeds. I was put in charge of buying “sweet spreads” so I was deciding which jams, chocolate spreads and marmalades etc were stocked by Asda.

However, I soon felt that food buying was more focused on money than the food products or nutrition, so I decided to retrain and went back to university to study a postgraduate diploma for 2 years to qualify as a clinical dietitian. As a dietitian I could work with patients to provide dietary treatment and education to help them prevent and recover from illness.

My first job as a Dietitian was in a big teaching hospital in London (UCLH) where I worked for two years providing dietary treatment to a wide range of patients across many different wards and outpatient clinics. I wasn’t sure which clinical area I wanted to specialise in so I was keen to cover all ward areas and I certainly did! I gained a really good general grounding in all areas of hospital dietetics plus insights into specialist areas such as a HIV ward and the neonatal baby unit.

By then I had met my partner (now my husband of 22 years) who lived in Manchester, and he convinced me to move to the North. I took a temporary role at Salford Royal Hospital in the area of Gastroenterology. The rest is history – I realised I absolutely loved working in this speciality with patients with all types of problems and diseases relating to the digestive tract - Coeliac disease, Crohns disease, stomach cancer and irritable bowel syndrome to name a few.

I stayed working in Gastroenterology until I moved to the Royal Oldham Hospital in 1999. I'm now a converted northerner having lived up North for longer than being in the South. I have worked my way up to being the manager of the department and along the way have worked in all areas including intensive care, haematology, surgery and everything else in between. 

As an operational manager & professional lead I now see fewer patients and my role is to manage the team of dietitians and everything within our service. This includes recruiting and managing the dietitians in my team - paediatrics, adults and diabetes outpatients.

I work to ensure we provide the best service we can, improving how nutritional care is given to patients and ensuring that we develop our practice to improve safety whilst reacting to outside impacts such as COVID-19.

We aim to streamline the ways we work to ensure we are following the latest clinical practice and try to see as many patients as we can efficiently and safely.

My days are still very varied – I might be interviewing someone or running a quality improvement project one day (for example, we are currently working on improving completion of patient food charts on ward) - or I might be working with other dietitians on nutritional policies and training student dietitians the next ….. it is never boring!

Sarah Parker
If you are interested in Nutrition and Science but want to work with people to help with their health and recovery then perhaps Dietetics is for you?

And don’t let hospitals put you off – Dietitians also work in business, with sports teams, food companies, in private practices and within catering – the role can be very rewarding and varied.