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Ashlee Cross

Community Dietitian, WA Country Health Service, Geraldton

When I chose to study nutrition I had no idea what a dietitian was or what they did. I had no idea what I was getting myself into! My interest in food, nutrition and health lead me to study Nutrition. As I became more aware of the clinical role of a dietitian through guest speakers and practical placements during the Nutrition degree, I knew Dietetics was what I ultimately wanted to be doing.

As a new graduate, I was lucky enough to gain experience in a number of different roles. I was offered a number of short-term locum positions which meant I was able to work for various hospitals including Fremantle, Princess Margaret and Osborne Park Hospitals.  I gained experience working in areas ranging from pediatrics right through to aged care and rehabilitation.  As well, it meant I had the opportunity to work in both primary and secondary hospitals and get to know how the different hospitals operated.

As well as various clinical work, I was also able to get my hands into some community nutrition work including educational talks for Diabetes WA, and running a nutrition program at playgroups aimed at Mums with young children.

Eventually, all of my experience gave me the opportunity to apply for and get a position as dietitian in Geraldton. I started out with a clinical role, working on the wards as well as with outpatients. I have now started in a brand new position as Community Dietitian for the Murchison.

In a typical day, I will be at the airport at 6.45 to fly out to Meekatharra or Mt Magnet on a small 6-seater plane. I arrive in the small mining town where I may see a number of outpatients, or run a nutrition session with the seniors group, or provide some inservice education to the hospital or hostel kitchen staff. I might also meet up with the owners of the school canteen and provide support or education, or run a nutrition lesson with the kids at the local school. If I am feeling up to it, I may meet up with the owners of the local stores or road houses and offer support and education about providing healthier options in their stores. I then need to get back to the airport by 3.30pm to fly back into Geraldton on that small plane, making sure that I remember to take my TravelCalm as the thermal air currents kick in in the afternoon and make the flight back very bumpy!

My job allows me the flexibility to recognize an area where I may be able to make a difference, and work towards achieving that. There is no set agenda, and I really appreciate that. Every town in the Murchison is different and has different needs. As challenging as rural health is, I love my job!

Ashlee Cross