The Interviews: Life as a New RD2B with Sam Harrison

Sam is currently a postgraduate Student Dietitian studying at the University of Chester. He has previously studied and has a BSc (Hons) in Nutritional Sciences and a MSc in Obesity and Weight Management.

1. What was your inspiration in starting your nutrition journey?

Hi Emma! Thank you for having me on your new interview series. I can trace my nutrition interest back to 2013. Around that time I went from being a standard meat eating, milk drinking kinda guy to vegan and this quite literally happened overnight. I can’t really remember what triggered that change…it was probably some kind of animal documentary on YouTube! After a while I ended up becoming really interested in food and health. I had to take more notice of what I was eating to make sure I was getting enough of what I needed to be healthy. Unfortunately, I was also convinced at the time that veganism was the pinnacle of health. Looking back now, a lot of what I was reading was heavily biased and involved some reeeeeeeeally dodgy science (that’s not to say a vegan diet can’t be healthy! – it absolutely can be). I’m not vegan anymore (I lasted about 2 years); I enjoy fish too much but that’s what inspired me to study my undergraduate in Nutritional Sciences (this is also where I met you!).

2. How did you know you wanted to study dietetics?

Throughout my undergrad I went back and forth SO often with what I wanted to do afterwards. In my second year I did a product development module, so at the time I thought the food industry might be for me. I became more interested in the clinical side of things in the third year and did some shadowing with community dietitians but I still hadn’t quite made up my mind on dietetics. That changed when I was doing my MSc in Obesity and Weight Management. There was quite a big emphasis on motivational interviewing and patient-centered care during the course. I really enjoyed learning about those approaches and knew they were important in dietetics. Another deciding factor was living with you during this time. You were in your second year of postgraduate dietetics and this gave me a really good insight into the course and the placements. I saw how tired and stressed you were at the end of a long day, but I also saw how much fulfilment and satisfaction it gave you.

3. Have you experienced any barriers to starting your studies?

Yes, a lack of confidence! I’m in awe of health-care professionals and didn’t feel good enough to become one. “What if I say the wrong thing to a patient?”, “what if I freeze when speaking to a doctor?”, “what if I stumble over my words when holding a group education session?” (the list goes on). In fact, I first applied for postgraduate dietetics in 2019 and was offered an interview and chickened out at the last minute because I was so sure I’d mess it up. I immediately regretted it but then had to wait a whole year for the next round of interviews. I ended up doing quite well in my MSc, which showed me I was capable of studying at that level. I also spent the extra year working on my confidence and realised I’m as capable as anyone.

4. How did you find the interview?

Well after missing the previous interview and waiting a year for another go, I felt quite a lot of pressure for it to go well. I spoke to several dietitians and dietetic students about their interview experiences. I googled health-care related interview questions, I looked over the NHS constitution and brushed up on the principles of patient-centered care. The day itself consisted of a group task and individual interview. I felt the group task was nice and relaxed. We all gave each other the chance to show off our personalities and knowledge – I think it’s about striking the right balance; you don’t want to be too quiet or too loud. For the interview, I tried to stay relaxed and give thoughtful answers. It’s okay to take some time before you speak. I also remember smiling a lot. Thankfully, it worked!

5. How are you finding your course and what are you most looking forward to?

Due to the pandemic, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from starting the course. I’d never used Microsoft Teams before, so that took a little bit of getting used to. I’m really enjoying the content, though. The lectures are definitely challenging, particularly the pharmacology, but there are plenty of resources to help us. I was a little apprehensive about not being able to get to know people on my course. However, at the time of writing this, we’re still able to study together (socially distanced) in the library, which has been great. I’m looking forward to the practical aspects of the course. We’re very lucky to have hospital ward simulations at the university, which is great preparation for going into NHS placements. The placements are a little while off yet, but of course I’m looking forward to those. Particularly seeing patients and learning more about the different specialisms within dietetics.

Thank you so much Sam for taking part!

This is only the start, we have many more interviews to come and many more stories to share! Hope you’ll enjoy them!

Emma x

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