My name is Heather Norris, and I am a full time equivalent dietitian in the South West Network. I work at St Michael’s, which is a level 3 surgical unit. I try to start my day between 7.30 and 8am. Ward rounds are at 9 am, so this gives me time to check emails and review any babies who are on special feeds or bespoke PN so that the prescriptions can be done and feeds can be made for the day. This involves checking feed tolerance and current volumes, new weights, blood biochemistry results etc. I then decide if any prescriptions needs to be adjusted and aim to get them processed before the ward round, although sometimes we need to wait until then for appropriate decisions to be made.
We have electronic growth charts, and so I plot babies weight, head circumferences and lengths on a regular basis to assess progress. I try to attend ward rounds both in intensive care and high dependency/special care at least once per week each end. I also have a regular dietetic outpatient clinic and support the weekly general neonatal clinic if any babies have any feeding or growth concerns.
I work closely with many other professionals including doctors, nurses, the speech and language therapist and breast feeding specialist nurse. If we have babies who have specific metabolic conditions or cystic fibrosis then I will liaise with the relevant specialist dietitian at the Children’s Hospital.
I also liaise with the community outreach nurses on a regular basis to help support growth post discharge, which is often where there is great need for support. I will refer these babies for ongoing support into my outpatient clinic so that they can continue to be monitored once they have outgrown the nursing team.
On top of that there’s always need to input into education and training for nurses and junior doctors on the unit and further afield. You may have seen me at network events together with my colleague Catherine who works at Southmead NICU. I am part of a national neonatal dietitian’s interest group and we try to stay informed of latest research and adapt our practice accordingly. I am also the chair of the breast feeding strategy group for the Children’s Hospital and try to use my expertise gained from working on the neonatal unit to good effect. In our national breast feeding strategy group for the BDA we have been working to develop learning outcomes for dietitians for breast feeding.
I really enjoy my job, there is great variety and fantastic colleagues to work with. I really feel like a valued part of the team and everyone is committed to work well together which is something to be proud of.