ruth

1. You’ve said it’s important to you to educate students. What advice do you have for other senior dietitians on carving out time to take on this mentoring role?

My advice is to try and remember what it was like to be a student or new graduate. Try and empathise with their position and create a bridge of rapport by listening and affirming their concerns and interests. Then proceed with strategic questions that always promote a deeper approach to thinking about their thinking and their actions. By doing this you are modelling your own problem-solving, which is more useful to give than a best practice guideline suggestion, which they can easily source themselves.

Demonstrate the qualities of a life-long learner. Never see them as a burden to your time, but rather an essential part of your job description, as it both develops you and also the quality of care provided to clients.

I find in most instances it takes a little initial sacrifice of well-spent time then the ability to step back and not try and dictate and control every word or action they take. It’s a confidence crusher to hover! Then they become your assistant rather than a burdensome student.

2. What inspired you to specialise in gastroenterological dietetics?

I will be honest and say that there was no inspiration initially. It was rotational at first and there was no one appropriate to move into it, according to my manager, so I said I’ll give it a go. I absolutely fell in love with it and was successful to get the role when it was regraded as senior and specialist.

I guess what I love about it is the constant problem-solving that is needed, given every surgery and treatment can have a different effect on the gastrointestinal tract. Things are rarely black and white, so I love the grey, which is where the intellectual stimulation is. I also like the challenge of having to work with surgeons and gastroenterologists to problem-solve after initially working very hard to earn their respect.

Then there is the fact that it is such a huge area, so that means my knowledge and decision making skills have the opportunity to always be challenged and improve.

3. What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

Can I have two? Patience and humility. It allows you to listen, observe, plan strategic responses, stay calm under pressure, learn from those around you, keep growing and grow those around you.

4. Do you have any tips on preparing for a public speaking commitment? 

Time. Make enough of it to know your stuff so you aren’t reading off a slide or paper. Move your voice, arms and legs to keep attention. Be passionate about what you are saying, and ask [or create] questions for the audience to engage with.

5. What’s your favourite way to unwind on a day off? 

What’s a day off? Currently on maternity leave, so my version of a day off is when the kids are in the good hands of a carer and I am nestled into my computer, attempting to chisel away at my to-do list for my PhD or DAA Gastro IG or AuSPEN stuff or work QI.