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What does a typical working day involve? What are your day-to-day activities?
I start my day with an early morning run 3 times a week, and then drop my kids off at school.
My mornings are a set schedule as I am at the University from 8 am to 1 pm teaching, assessing and guiding my students at different hospital bedsides in Cape Town.
I see patients at my practice 2-3 times per week in the afternoons, but no day is ever the same, which is what I love. I then fetch my kids at school and go home, have dinner and yes, catch-up on my admin. I also try to spend time with my teenagers and connect with them daily, we talk about our day, etc.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love working with people; it’s my passion. Every patient/client is different, and I learn from them each day. I also enjoy teaching my students to become the best dietitian they can be and helping others make the lifestyle change they need to, in order to improve their health.
If you want to do Dietetics, you must enjoy working with people. We have a responsibility to educate and support the public to make positive changes to their lifestyles; we are faced with a triple burden of disease in South Africa:
So, I believe Dietitians are going to become the front-runners for advocating good health. Remember prevention is better than cure.
What do you enjoy least about your job?
I love my private practice as well as my university role, however, I do not like admin work. I’d much rather spend all my time educating my students and learning from my clients, but admin is sort of a necessary evil, so you just have to get through it.
What are your general responsibilities?
Teaching my students on their internship, as well as lecturing the 1st year Dietetic students. Educating clients on healthy eating relative to their clinical conditions. Keeping up with the latest research in my field and scope of practice.
Is there a qualification required to perform this career? Where and what did you study?
I did my Honours in Nutrition and Dietetics at UCT – it’s a postgraduate degree, which I completed after my BSc degree, which I did through UNISA.
You can study Dietetics after Matric/Grade 12 at the following universities in South Africa:
What are the requirements to be accepted into this specific qualification?
If studying dietetics as an undergraduate programme, admission requirements include a National Senior Certificate, with Mathematics and Physical Sciences. Some institutions also require Life Sciences, so check the admission requirements at the university you are interested in to be sure you meet the requirements.
Is there any training provided by the institution once you come on board?
At UCT, your first year is mostly theory-based and then your second year is an internship, where you have block rotations at different hospitals as well as Community Health Centres.
What type of person would be well suited to this career? What skills are needed for this career?
A career in dietetics will suit those who:
are interested in food and health
enjoy and have a flair for science
would be fulfilled by a caring, helpful profession
are lifelong learners who are attentive to the on-going developments in science
can translate scientific knowledge into practical advice
are comfortable in the role of the expert and like sharing knowledge with others
have strong inter- and intrapersonal skills
have a positive attitude and the ability to motivate others
have empathy, understanding and tact
How long have you been in this position and how did you get there?
After I completed my medical honours in Dietetics and Nutrition, I joined a private practice where I did locum work for an established dietitian, and I was very grateful for this experience. While working with her, I had the opportunity to manage the Healthy Weight Programme at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, which included weekly weight monitoring and nutrition education. Here too, my expertise broadened and then I opened my own private practice in 2006.
I wanted to also work in the community and developed a passion for chronic diseases, particularly diabetes. I co-ordinated with a Diabetic Support Group in the Rylands/Athlone area once a month, providing nutrition education as well as raising general awareness of the disease.
I was the regional dietitian for Vodacom for 3 years and consulted at their Bellville, Cape Town and Century City branches for six hours on a weekly basis.
Do you have any additional advice for someone interested in pursuing this career?
The price of success is hard work, dedication, perseverance and patience. Nothing worthwhile comes easy in life, we have to work at it. Don’t give up, whatever your dream is and don’t be afraid to DREAM! There can be no reality without dreams.
For more information contact a dietitian in your area to get further insight into the profession. You can find dietitians in a variety of settings such as private practice, public and private hospitals, clinics or community health centres, in the food service industry and academia.
What is the typical starting salary and general earning potential thereafter?
Community service is a year of compulsory employment with the Department of Health after qualification, required in order to register and practice as a Dietitian in South Africa. A dietitian employed by the Department of Health in a community service position earns R 205 650 p.a. plus 37% in lieu of benefits, before deductions. This level subsequently increases based on years of experience. In private practice, it depends on how busy your practice is, but with putting an effort into marketing, you can make a good living in the private and corporate sectors.
Any quirky advice for scholars looking to pursue a career in your field?
“It’s hard to lose weight when you have an overactive knife and fork”
– Be ready to be judged, but NEVER judge your clients/patients.
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