RtP AHP Heather.pngFlexibility, patient care and local working – three reasons why dietitian Heather Wanstall is pleased she returned to practice in Kent and Medway.

The 58-year-old graduated from King’s College London in 1987 and after two years at Guy’s Hospital, she relocated to Kent for a job in Dartford.

After 16 years working for Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust, Heather decided on a career change and left the NHS to lecture in nutrition and dietetics at London Metropolitan University. From there she moved into the charity sector, working first for Prostate Cancer UK and then the Royal College of Radiologists.

She explains: “I was made redundant from the college in 2021 but that gave me the opportunity to reconsider what I wanted to do next. Flexibility, the opportunity to work locally and not commute to London plus working with patients again, made returning to practice as a dietitian the ideal solution.

“I phoned my local dietetics department and they jumped at the chance to have me. I completed three months of supervised practice and study before landing a six-month pilot role in oncology – a role that lasted for two years. I then moved to a community trust where I am now team leader.

“I had mixed emotions about returning to practice. I re-joined the NHS at the end of the pandemic and there was a lot of new language to learn, and PPE guidance to follow. But the joy of working with a lovely team, and not commuting into London, meant I soon found my feet and relaxed into the role.

Making a difference

“Three years in, I know I am making a difference to people. Working with patients over an extended period means I get to know them well.

“I like the variety of working in a mixture of settings – care homes, resident’s homes and clinic.

“I also help trainees and apprentices and it’s rewarding to see them develop and grow. It’s also an opportunity for me to share my professional skills and teaching knowledge.

“Therapists listen and get to know their patients. We can find out what people are struggling with and offer a solution in an approachable and friendly way.

“To anyone considering returning to practice, I would say ‘go for it’ and don’t be daunted by the paperwork. You will be snapped up and won’t regret it.”