Emma has been a Registered Dietitian for over 18 years and has experience in adult and paediatric dietetics. She has been the Editor of NHD for seven years, steering the editorial content and supporting the production process. Emma currently works in industry.

Emma Coates, RD

Sharing my dietetic journey for Dietitians Week

Dietetics is a fantastic career choice. I may be biased but I can hand on heart say this, having been a dietitian for the last 18 years, with four years' training before qualifying!

Dietitians Week is always a pleasure to be part of and observe, seeing the profession showcase its strengths and the evolution of our industry. This year’s campaign has been no exception – celebrating our journeys throughout our dietetic careers.

The themes throughout the week got me thinking about my own journey, which has been interesting and diverse!

1. I chose dietetics because…

The British Dietetic Association asks - Did you choose dietetics or did dietetics choose you!?

I think dietetics kind of chose me. As a young adult, I was treated by a registered dietitian following a diagnosis of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which required surgical intervention. I received dietary advice and oral nutritional support. Prior to this, I had no idea that dietitians existed or what they did. The support and treatment I received made a huge difference in my recovery. This resonated with me greatly and inspired me to choose dietetics as a career path.

2. My first role in dietetics

Graduating in 2006, I was fortunate to gain my first role as a Band 5 dietitian at the Countess of Chester NHS  Foundation Trust. This was fairly local to my home town of Wrexham in North Wales and gave me a fantastic start in clinical dietetic practice. It was a rotational post, which offered the opportunity to experience a range of specialisms and be involved in different teams, projects and initiatives.

I enjoyed this role very much, despite it being a steep learning curve! It was a real privilege to work with the fantastic dietetic team there, along with fellow healthcare professionals as part of a range of MDTs. I learned a lot over a couple of years and to this day, I still recall and use some of the knowledge and experiences from this period in my career. It was a great springboard for my move into my next clinical role at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board in North Wales, specialising in paediatrics.

3. Celebrating us

This bit is about celebrating wins! I’ve been very lucky to have experienced a lot of wins throughout my time as a dietitian. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities that have crossed my path over the years!

But if we’re focusing on wins from the last year, I’d choose completing my MSc in Food Regulatory Affairs and publishing my research from the course on health claims in the journal ‘Foods’.

Publishing a research paper isn’t something that I ever thought I’d achieve. I’m very grateful to my Ulster University research mentors, Professor Kristina Pentieva and Professor Hans Verhagen, who supported the research process and provided incredible guidance during the publication of my paper.

Whilst Kristina and Hans were guiding lights on the academic side of this win, my colleagues at NHD magazine and Nualtra, particularly my manager, Paul Gough, were there to support this achievement too. I’m incredibly lucky to have them in my life and huge thanks to them all for listening to me moan and whitter on about the course and this paper!

4. My alternative route in dietetics

As I’ve mentioned above, my colleagues at NHD and Nualtra are a big part of my working world. I’ve been in industry since the end of 2014 and have been dabbling in freelancing since 2010. Whilst I’ve enjoyed the clinical roles I’ve held since graduating, working in industry and freelancing have been equally as enjoyable and rewarding.

The variety of work I’ve been involved with as an industry/freelance dietitian over the years has been diverse, which appeals to me because there’s always something new to learn and it offers new challenges. However, the clinical fundamentals, training and experience still support or form the bedrock of a lot of this.

Over the years as a dietitian, I’ve aimed to use my skills and expertise where dietetic input or influence can make a difference. This has ranged from new product development, to setting up new services and resources for patients and/or healthcare professionals. Other examples include, teaching/lecturing in industry and academic settings, the NHD magazine content I support and create; advising on policy relating to a range of initiatives/recommendations and ensuring compliance with relevant legislation within my regulatory role at Nualtra.

Dietetics has a lot to offer beyond the clinical sphere and dietitians are certainly capable of driving and shaping the nutritional landscape of the future via a wide range of non-clinical roles. You can find out more about working in industry as a dietitian via the BDA Industry Specialist Group.

5. The pinnacle of my career

This is a tough one! I’ve already mentioned that I’ve experienced a lot of wins in my career to date. I feel very privileged to be working in this profession and sharing it with so many inspirational fellow dietitians.

I’m not sure what the pinnacle of my career has been to be honest. I was proud to graduate as a dietitian and work in my local hospitals as a clinician. I was proud to make the move into industry back in 2014, starting my journey with Dr Schar working on products and services for those with Inborn Errors of Metabolism. I was proud to become Editor of NHD back in 2016 and to support the production of this great publication. Since then, I’ve been proud to be part of Nualtra, helping to grow a portfolio of products and services that benefit a wide range of people. and perhaps most recently, I’m proud to be part of the founding committee of the BDA Industry Specialist Group, the first time industry dietitians have had a specific group to join, an umbrella to come together under. The group is still developing but it’s great to know that the future of dietitians working in industry roles have the support of one another via the group.

Be proud and shout about it!

It's not easy for many people (myself included) to ‘big themselves up’ or share their successes without feeling self-conscious. However, this year’s Dietitians Week has provided a great platform to do this and celebrate what the profession has to offer from all aspects of dietetic life. Wherever you work and use your dietetic expertise, your input and influence are really valuable and important. Always be proud of the work you’re doing and share that with others whenever possible.

I’ll say it again, dietetics is a fantastic career choice! I’m confident that the profession will continue to go from strength to strength, perhaps even more so than ever with the BDA’s recent Strategic Plan 2024-2034, which pledges to grow its membership to ‘20,000 satisfied members' in 10 years.

The future is not without its challenges but dietetic careers are often long and winding roads! Let’s inspire and support one another to enjoy the journey we have ahead.