AHPs in profile - Kathryn Guest, Specialist Community Paediatric Dietitian / Team Lead.

In the lead up to AHP Day on Monday 14 October 2019, we are sharing an interview a day from some of our Allied Health Professional staff.

Today's features the wonderful Kathryn Guest, Specialist Community Paediatric Dietitian/Team Lead, Children’s Community Services.

Kathryn Guest, Dietitian

A big career change

I first became interested in diet and health from the age of 13 when I gave a presentation on healthy eating during one of my school lessons. My love for food and cooking developed further and has always played a big part in my life. When I left school, I was guided towards the legal profession where I worked until the age of 35. I felt like there was something missing for me in my working life and hearing stories about how other people were doing something they love, and getting paid for it, I decided it was time to hang up the Civil Procedure Rule book and seek a better life in a new career.

I enrolled at the local college to complete an Access to Science course and was accepted onto a degree programme to study a BSc (Hons) Nutrition & Dietetics. It was a very busy time as my two children were at primary school, but I have never looked back since and currently working towards an MSc in Obesity & Weight Management. I feel that doing something you love is the key to true happiness!

Who we care for

I joined MLCO in December 2018 as a sole dietitian, providing a service for children who are fed a liquid feed via feeding tubes. Recently, the service has grown and I now lead the team based at Levenshulme Health Centre. We see children from birth up to adulthood who have severe learning disabilities or congenital/genetic disorders and require input from the complex care team and/or palliative care nursing teams.

We hold clinics in the specialist support schools, see children in their home environment and are always available at the end of the telephone to provide ongoing support. During our dietetic assessment, we will look at the child’s medical condition, height and weight history, current eating patterns/feeding regimens and also the wider social environment identifying the support is available for them and their family. We calculate nutritional requirements which comprise of energy, protein, fluid, vitamins and minerals so that all our children receive the appropriate care plan to ensure optimal growth and development. All our children take a liquid feed via a feeding tube; we devise a feeding regimen providing specific directions for administration of feed and fluid.

Who we work with

We work very closely with the dietetic team at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital following a child’s discharge from hospital. We also work with the children’s community nursing team, health visitors, speech and language therapists, carers and family members to provide effective and quality care for all our children. Once a child is discharged home, a prescription request is sent to the GP who will contact the company who provides all our enteral feeds, syringes, giving sets together with nursing support, to ensure parents/carers are adequately trained to administer feeds to their child.

Ongoing research and development

We are working together with the dietitians at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital to develop a policy for the use of a blended diet in this patient cohort. The blended diet is a very controversial area of discussion and we are continually seeking ways to develop our service by undertaking valuable research in this area.

Supporting the whole family

It is essential that we develop a good rapport with all our children and families in order to provide the support they need. It can be a very emotionally challenging job, but also a very rewarding one, especially as you see the children making progress and feeling that you have played a fundamental part in their care.

It is important to be sensitive to families throughout their journey. For example, if a child passes away and there is equipment to be collected; we ensure that this is done by someone they know and not a total stranger. Having children myself, I always think what I would want in that situation and how the parents must feel at this very difficult time.

Misconceptions about dietitians

Whenever I mention that I am a dietitian, I usually get asked if I see overweight people, what is the best diet to follow and do I get my five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, but our focus is very different. Dietitians receive medical training and can interpret blood results to allow us to provide care to people suffering from many acute or chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney and liver disease.

There are many different career paths you can take within dietetics, including public health, media, research and development, training and education. There are also different specialisms, including eating disorders, mental health, obesity and weight management, paediatrics, learning disabilities and general malnutrition. As you can see, a career in dietetics can be very diverse and it isn’t all about getting your five-a-day.

The best thing about being a dietitian

For me, it is working with families and seeing the children thrive, especially if they were very poorly when I first met them. What a lovely feeling to feel part of a quality team that has helped them towards this!