Background 

I have been the Director of Nutrition and Dietetics at Mater Health Services, Brisbane since 2001. The Mater Hospitals group currently includes adults, maternity and paediatric public and private hospitals at South Brisbane and Redlands. I have worked within clinical dietetics for the past 20 years in a number of hospitals throughout Queensland as well as in Canada. I have had experience working within a number of different healthcare foodservice production and delivery models as well as in restaurant and hotel foodservice environments. In 2013 one of the Mater Hospitals group, Mater Private Hospital, implemented room service as their patient foodservice model, the first of its kind in Australia. Like most Dietitians, I am passionate about providing good nutrition to patients within the healthcare setting whilst maintaining a strong customer focus and ensuring patient engagement and satisfaction in the provision of food and nutrition as a part of their treatment.   

Tell me a little bit about your job and/or describe a typical day for you?

A typical day involves juggling management of the priorities of 2 large clinical teams (adults and maternity/ neonatal/ paediatric) as well as working alongside the senior management of hotel services to continually implement changes and improvements in the multiple foodservice models that exist at Mater. We try to promote research and evidence based practice as underpinning all of our services and foodservices is no exception. Our senior research dietitians and connections with Mater Research Institute assist with this. Most days involve many different meetings and discussions with a broad range of stakeholders across our organisation to improve clinical care and maintain a cost effective and efficient healthcare service. This ranges from senior clinicians in medical, nursing and allied health disciplines, senior researchers affiliated with MRI and members of our hospital executive teams through to our quality and safety team and senior hotel services staff. It is a busy and challenging role, but the diversity and exposure to such a wide range of people and expertise is what keeps it interesting. Ultimately I suppose promoting Nutrition and Dietetics and our role in contributing to patient care as well as the efficient and effective running of each of the hospitals is the reason I am here.  

What do you most enjoy about your role?

I particularly enjoy the enormous diversity of my role, managing a large team of clinical dietitians across all areas of Dietetics, as well as strengthening our research team and links with Mater Research Institute. I also enjoy the very close links with Foodservices and our role being integrally involved in the development and rollout of new and innovative foodservice models and systems.

Tell me a little bit about your career in dietetics thus far and/or why did you choose food service dietetics as a career?

I have worked as a clinical dietitian for coming up to 20 years both in Australia and in Canada. I have always worked in large and tertiary hospitals but spent the first half of my career as a clinical dietitian, particularly in the areas of ICU and oncology. Like most clinical dietitians I touched into the area of foodservices but mainly in an attempt to meet my patient’s individual needs. I moved into management about 14 years ago and as Director of a clinical dietetics department, the requirement to be involved in foodservices shifts into more of the planning and strategic development of foodservice systems alongside the senior hotel services management team. I didn’t ever specifically choose foodservice dietetics as a career, it just came with the management territory, but I really enjoy it as a part of my role. I have always had an interest in different foodservice systems and models, through earlier experience in hotels and restaurants and adding hospital foodservices to this was a natural progression, albeit a challenging one.  Changing and improving  a foodservice system to meet patient’s needs can really make a difference to their nutritional intake and overall healthcare experience and ultimately assist and empower clinical dietitians to do their role. I like to think of food and ultimately the foodservice as one of the major tools that clinical dietitians require to do their job.

What would be your number one tip to someone starting their career in dietetics/food service?

Keep your mind open to any possibility, especially those that have never been done. Mater Private Hospital Brisbane is the first hospital in Australia to implement room service as a patient foodservice model and many thought it was an impossible and expensive dream. However our results have shown that our patient satisfaction is up, our plate waste is significantly down and overall costs have decreased. Don’t be afraid to try new things and branch out into areas that dietitians may not have normally ventured. Dietitians have an amazing skill set and can make a difference to patient care through many different avenues.

What is one interesting fact about you?

I have a very acute sense of smell and have been told by chefs that I have a very good palate, so I would like to think that if I wasn’t in this role I may have had a shot at being a professional champagne taster….. albeit a longshot!