Pamela Er, Clinical Dietitian at the National University Hospital (Singapore)
During my college (pre-university) days, at the countless career fairs that the school organizes for us, popular occupations like becoming doctors, lawyers, bankers and engineers would resound amongst my peers. However, uttering the ambition “I want to be a dietitian”, was unheard of and something that my peers couldn’t quite fathom.
In light of a fast growing obesogenic food environment and the prevalence of many diet/lifestyle related diseases, I have grown to become passionate about health and diet in my formative years.
It was the belief that I could make a difference in the lives of those around me by positively influencing their lifestyle habits and imparting valuable dietary knowledge to them that cemented my decision in pursuing a degree in nutrition and dietetics.
I am originally based in Singapore and unfortunately a dietetics degree was not something offered in Singapore. I wanted to be close to family but yet pursue a career pathway that I was really passionate about hence I chose to move to Perth, only a mere 5 hours away from home. The other huge factor as to why I picked Curtin University was the fact that Curtin has a reputable standard and quality of the health sciences degrees offered. Most importantly, it was a dietetics degree recognized by the Singapore Nutrition and Dietetics Association. It was also the only university in Western Australia that has been accredited by the Dietetics Association of Australia then.
The dietetics program at Curtin created an environment that not only hone my interpersonal skills but also prepared me adequately for what life would be like as a clinical dietitian. This is especially so during my clinical placements where we had one on one mentoring sessions and support from practicing clinical dietitians, who were also our university lecturers. As a student dietitian, it was real meaningful and practical to me to be able to bounce off ideas and receive advice from practicing dietitians.
Some of the attributes that I have developed which have helped me in my career are:
- Time management skills in prioritising patients and managing my day-to-day clinical workload
- Effective communication skills to a multidisciplinary team including doctors, nurses and other allied health professionals
- Confidence in public speaking
I was really blessed with caring and approachable lecturers throughout my time at Curtin, which honestly made university life easier as help was always available!
Since returning back to Singapore, I’ve started my career as a clinical dietitian at National University Hospital (NUH), one of the largest tertiary hospitals in the country. My specialties are in the areas of weight management as a bariatric dietitian, general medicine (i.e. nutritional support, diabetes and lipid lowering dietary counseling) and geriatric nutrition.
I am thankful to be part of the weight management team at NUH that sees approximately 500 weight management patients yearly and about 70 of whom, would have undergone bariatric surgery.
My day-to-day role in the hospital (both inpatient and outpatient clinic setting) includes:
- Providing nutritional assessment, support and dietary counseling to both patients and carers of patients
- Planning and creating therapeutic diet meal plans for patients with special dietary requirement
- Reviewing inpatient nutrition progress and documenting my patient management
- Delivery of nutrition education programs and talks for patients, the public or other health care professionals and staff
- Multidisciplinary ward rounds
- Regularly developing and updating patient education materials to better convey up to date nutritional recommendations to patients
Apart from my clinical workload, I’ve also had ongoing opportunities to be involved in conducting research projects with doctors of different specialties and other fellow dietitians on better improving the quality of care and service we provide to patients.
I had a holistic university experience at Curtin by keeping an open mind and making the best of the opportunities given. And I encourage you to do likewise! It has truly been rewarding being a dietitian for over a year now and seeing what a difference you can make in the life of others. I am very glad to say I love my job!