Empathy, listening and left over chocolate

On Trust a Dietitian week, meet dietitian Heather Wilkinson

Empathy, listening and left over chocolate
10 June 2014

To mark Trust a Dietitian week, here’s a 60-second interview with Heather Wilkinson, an advanced child and adolescent mental health dietitian.

How did you become a dietitian?
I studied at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, graduating in 1996. I then worked as a dietitian for a number of years in Norwich, working in general medicine and surgery. I then decided I wanted to try something new so worked for the pharmaceutical company Pfizer but found I really missed being a dietitian so came back to work as a dietitian in Cambridge where I have ended up specialising in paediatrics and then onto paediatric mental health working for Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust.

What makes a good dietitian?
Empathy, good listening skills and an ability to translate scientific information into plain English for people to understand.

What is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?
Dietitians are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems at an individual and wider public-health level. They work with both healthy and sick people. Uniquely, dietitians use the most up-to-date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices.

A nutritionist doesn’t require the same level of training, so whilst they are able to promote good nutrition, they aren’t able to offer the same standard of professional excellence. They also aren’t trained to treat more complex medical conditions.

Why should people trust a dietitian?
Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be regulated by law, and are governed by an ethical code to ensure that they always work to the highest standard.

Anything else we need to know about you?
I really enjoy cooking and experimenting with food whilst cooking, but, did you ever notice that there are no recipes for left over chocolate!

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust
Elizabeth House, Fulbourn Hospital
Cambridge, CB21 5EF

T 01223 219400 (open 8:30am to 5pm)
F 01480 398501

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