Real-life story: Briony

I worked as support worker, a care manager, and a teacher before I trained to be a dietitian, graduating at the age of 32. Having worked with people within mental health and learning disabilities, as well as my time as a teacher; I knew I wanted a role bringing all these skills together. Now I’m in my dream job as a specialist learning disability dietitian and the clinical lead for dietetics in Cornwall.

How I got into the role

I returned to college on the access course which got me my place at Plymouth University. As a student on placement, I was keen to spend time with the learning disability and mental health dietitians. I was fascinated by the work in these specialities due to my previous work history and was given support with pursuing my interest.  After graduating I had several roles with the community and stroke dietetic teams. These gave me a great experience with the management of different conditions, patient groups and settings. My first experience within the specialism was a part-time and fixed term contract; I loved working with the community learning disabilities multi-disciplinary team (MDT) and seeing how our work fitted together to provide holistic care. This role was followed by my first permanent post with the Plymouth Community Learning Disabilities Team where I built and developed my knowledge and skills. In my current position, I use my experience and learning to help shape healthcare services to meet the needs of the patient group.

What I do

We know from the evidence that people with learning disabilities experience greater health inequalities compared to the rest of the population. I see clients with a broad range of dietetic presentations which include nutritional support, weight management, constipation, gastro-intestinal difficulties, and enteral feeding.  I work closely with my patients, their families, and supporters, as well as the learning disabilities MDT, primary care, acute care, social care and my dietitian colleagues in other services. It is essential we work together to help improve the health outcomes for people with learning disabilities.

The best bits

The most rewarding part of the job is working with the client; I see such humour and resilience and diversity. It’s important to me to advocate for the health needs with a view to improve health outcomes and quality of life. Being part of the MDT means we identify the needs of the person holistically and provide person-centred care. Collaborating with colleagues within the MDT and in other services to improve health outcomes and support the implementation of reasonable adjustments can make a real difference to people’s lives, in the short and long term; it’s an honour to be part of that.