Vladimir Hrbatsch talks to us about his role as a diabetes dietitian and how he supports people to improve their diabetes management and their overall wellbeing.
My role is a diabetes dietitian in Hillingdon Council community service. It includes supporting people with diet advice, which ranges from carbohydrate counting and insulin dose adjustments, low-carbohydrate diets to improving blood lipids or blood pressure alongside diet.
How did you develop an interest in diabetes?
Diabetes is a big part of the curriculum of the dietetic course, and it was made captivating by Dr Louise Goff’s lectures.
Furthermore, biochemistry and physiology were two of my favourite subjects at university, which helped me understand the processes that can cause diabetes, as well as the reasons for treatment options and their action in the body.
The fascinating relationship between diet and diabetes was further reinforced by my supervisors when I was on my placements. Some of my best placement memories and biggest learning was with the diabetes team.
Having the opportunity for the first time to sit on multidisciplinary meetings and observe the collaboration between nurses, doctors and allied healthcare professionals, is something I enjoy to this day.
What do you find the most challenging and the most rewarding about your role?
The most rewarding part of the job is to interact and help people, knowing that I’ve made a real difference to their life, or when I am told by them that I have.
This is not about blood results or clinical outcomes, the reward is when people tell me that they feel better, have more energy, or are able to go on holidays after years of struggling living with diabetes.
The challenging part of the job can be motivating people to make changes. Food choices are not simply only about health. Social, cultural, physical, psychological and environmental factors play a big role in our day-to-day decisions about food.
Finding the reason and offering coping mechanisms to make it easier for individuals to make choices to improve their health can be a challenge for both healthcare professionals as well as people living with diabetes.
What have you achieved recently in diabetes care that you are excited about and that keeps you motivated?
When I started in my current role, I had an opportunity to do a module at Buckinghamshire New University. Not only was I the first dietitian to pass the course, but did so with a grade A.
Showcasing my ability is a way to raise the profile of my profession and I believe it helps both other medical and non-medical colleagues, as well as academics, to appreciate the unique perspective that dietitians can offer.
I also volunteer for the Diabetes Specialist Groups under the British Dietetic Association, and have had an opportunity to meet and work with some amazing dietitians with tons of experience.
I am currently assisting with a review of updated PEN (Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition) resources, an online information portal for dietitians. Working on a project like this and seeing the dedication that others in my profession put into their work makes me determined to follow in their footsteps.
What is coming up next for you at work?
Development of group programmes to extend the provision of advice to more people than before.
Carbohydrate awareness, or carb counting, will be the first to be developed to help individuals to better understand the relationship between carbohydrates, their sources, and insulin, as well as different types of insulin.
What do you do to relax outside of work?
Like every dietitian, I love food and that is a big part of my professional as well as private life. Exploring new recipes, flavours and ingredients or just cooking old favourite comfort foods is a way for me to relax quite frequently.
Besides food, I enjoy travelling. Recently I visited Vienna which was absolutely beautiful.
My ultimate favourite pastime is hiking and camping, which I do frequently and want to do more often. The tranquillity of nature in Cairngorms, Snowdonia or Czech mountains like Jeseniky or Beskydy is priceless.
Any tips you would like to share with our other healthcare professionals?
My advice is to make the most of the resources available from Diabetes UK, it is information you can trust and is useful for service users and healthcare professionals.
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