Dietetics students from Teesside University have been helping adults with learning disabilities to build a healthier lifestyle and raising awareness about the importance of a nutritious diet during their work placement.
As part of the MSc Dietetics (Pre-Registration) course within Teesside University’s School of Health & Life Sciences, Jess Pearse and Sophie Kendall, both 22, have been undertaking a practical placement to encourage healthy eating.
The first-year students spent three months at Camphill Village Trust’s Botton Village supported-living community for adults with learning disabilities, working together with staff and people supported to raise awareness around diet and improve health.
They produced a number of useful resources including easy read recipe cards and books to encourage healthy eating, which Camphill Village Trust plans to share nationally across its other communities.
Alongside this, Jess and Sophie formulated the café menu, conducted staff and community education sessions and collaborated with a British Dietetic Association specialist group to promote how dietitians can help those with learning disabilities to build a healthier lifestyle.
The work the students have done has been extremely important, particularly as people with learning disabilities have been found to face higher levels of health inequalities, resulting in a higher overall risk of developing diet-related diseases.
Jess Pearse, from Barnard Castle, said: “This placement has been really important for us, and it’s made me think this is definitely the right career for me.
“We wanted whatever we did in the three months to last. We built such a rapport with so many people on the site and it’s been so rewarding. We’re really happy with everything we’ve left the community with to help them with nutrition.
“Those changes that we have made will hopefully improve the lives of those real people and I feel really privileged to have had the opportunity.”
Sophie Kendall, from Melton Mowbray, added: “Our main aims were to help people supported at Botton Village in as many ways as we could by helping to reduce health inequalities, increasing awareness on how dietitians can help people with learning disabilities, and creating engaging resources that can be used over and over again.
“We literally grabbed every opportunity, and I think this will definitely help us in the future. We’ve found new ways to communicate with people verbally and non-verbally and I think that’s really important because wherever you end up as a dietitian, you’re always going to have that patient-facing focus.
“I think that the placement has made me understand why I want to be a dietitian as it’s so incredibly rewarding.”
After accomplishing so much during their time at Botton Village, Jess and Sophie are excited for their next work placement, which will take place in a clinical setting.
They praised Teesside University’s Dietetics programme for its emphasis on helping students to gain hands-on experience within the sector, which ensures they have the practical skills and theoretical knowledge needed to build successful careers as healthcare professionals.
Jess said: “The course is very practical, which I think is important and really helpful, especially as it’s a master’s and we’ll be going into working life very shortly. The lecturers are brilliant and the way that they teach us as well I think is great. It makes me want to come to University every day.”
Sophie added: “The support from the tutors has really helped me because I’m dyslexic and I can ask loads of questions and really have an input in lessons.
“I think that’s really helped me develop as a person and as a soon-to-be-qualified dietitian; it’s made me more confident in myself as well as my knowledge, and that’s definitely been from the support of all the staff. They really do believe in you, and they really want you to succeed, so having that extra support is great.”
Camphill Village Trust is a national charity with ten communities and services across England, including its Botton Village location in the North York Moors National Park, which provide opportunities and support for people with learning disabilities and complex needs.
Steven James, General Manager at Camphill Village Trust’s Botton Village location, said: “I am delighted with our ongoing partnership with Teesside University by having student dietitians on placement with us.
“Jess and Sophie have worked very closely with people we support, staff members and local management to help shape our approach and increase awareness of the importance of a healthy and nutritious diet for people with learning disabilities.
“They are an absolute credit to the University, and I wish them well in their studies and future careers.”
Study Dietetics at Teesside University
School of Health & Life Sciences
Camphill Village Trust
Main image: Jess Pearse (left) and Sophie Kendall (right)