Joanna Paggi: Dietitian, WA Country Health Service, Warren & Blackwood Community Health, Manjimup
A lecturer once said that people choose a nutrition degree because they either hate or love food. Well for me, it was definitely the latter that contributed to my decision to study nutrition and dietetics. My other criteria were to study a degree that led to a job where I was working with people and that had a lot of work variety. Tick, tick and tick. Meeting all of these areas meant that the nutrition and dietetics degrees were a perfect fit for me.
The fact that the nutrition and dietetic degrees at Curtin are well-established and are run by experienced staff meant it was an obvious university to choose. Also, being the only nutrition course in WA accredited by the Dietetics Association of Australia at the time was a big factor.
I really enjoyed some of the extra opportunities that were available throughout both my degrees and I think they helped me to develop a unique set of skills that I’ve been able to draw upon whilst working as a Dietitian. These opportunities included gaining hands-on experience through the nutrition volunteer/work experience program, travelling to Laverton for some health promotion activities with Curtin Volunteers and the Go Global program where I was able to complete one of my placements in the Philippines. There never seemed to be a shortage of interesting and unique things that you could do at Curtin, which was great for someone like me that really likes variety!
After a rural placement in dietetics in 2012, I knew that I wanted to work in the country. So when this position came up during my final weeks of prac I applied and was lucky enough to get the job. I think going rural is great experience for a new grad like myself, as you get so much variety – a little bit of everything. You also get to see some really great places!
I am both a community and clinical Dietitian and as the sole Dietitian in the Warren Blackwood area I cover 8 towns, 5 hospitals, inpatients, outpatients, adults, paediatrics and just about any condition you can think of!
A typical day for me might involve an hour’s drive through the beautiful South West forest to hold a clinic in one of the towns I cover, where I have one-on-one appointments with people. I’m lucky enough to have the luxury of a bit more time with people than perhaps a dietitian that works in a busy hospital or clinic might have. This means I really get to know my clients and can try to understand their issues a bit better, which I really enjoy. I then might have a group to run, such as a diabetes group, a supermarket tour or an introducing solids group to new mothers. Perhaps I’ll then have to switch to my clinical hat to see a patient in hospital. On top of that, I could have a videoconference with other rural dietitians to discuss complex cases and update on new nutrition information.
Although my days are usually pretty full and busy, there is definitely a slower pace in the country which makes for a great work-life balance.
My advice for future students would be to grab all the opportunities you can while studying at Curtin – there are lots of different things to do outside of your degree that will take you out of your comfort zone and help you develop new and diverse skills. This can help to make things more interesting and hands-on especially in the first year of your nutrition degree where you have to cover more of the basics. I’ve found becoming and working as a Dietitian a very rewarding experience – hopefully you will feel the same way!