Expert Opinion

The NHS at 70 Years - Catherine Coates

Catherine Coates is Director of Practice Learning, Health and Social Care for the School of Health. Here she talks about her time working in the NHS and how it helps in her current role.

Catherine Coates

My first job in the NHS was as a Basic Grade Dietitian at Liverpool Teaching Hospital in 1984. Working life came as a bit of a shock and the realisation that placements were just a practice for the reality of the NHS was a challenge in the first six months. As a Basic Grade Dietitian in a busy Teaching Hospital your feet never touched the ground and you tackled everything that was thrown at you. Planning and prioritisation was key to getting though the new referrals every day.

Having realised that Paediatrics and Diabetes were my favourite aspects of practice, I very cheekily applied for a Senior 1 grade, 10 months after qualifying, and got the job at Blackburn Hospital running the paediatric Dietetic service and managing a small team of Dietitians! This was a challenging role in a wonderful community hospital where I quickly learned the ropes with my time in the neonatal unit and eating disorders clinic being my favourite aspects of my job.

When it became apparent that all of my colleagues were getting married and settling down I decided to move down to the bright lights of London and got a Chief Dietitian’s job at the Whittington Hospital in North London. Here again I specialised in Paediatric Dietetics and Neonatal and Intensive Care were my specialist areas. I learned so much from the fantastic consultants at this hospital and colleagues at UCL where multidisciplinary working were very established.

I joined Leeds Beckett University in January 1991, swapping patients for students and becoming Course Leader for the BSc Hons Dietetics course.

My experiences in clinical practice and management turned out to be an excellent start to my life in higher education, enabling me to use my professional training and expertise to enhance and extend the role of Nutrition and Dietetics in healthcare.

I became Director of Practice Learning in 2007 and have spent the last 11 years working with nursing students and Allied Health Professions to ensure that their practice experiences prepare them well for life in the NHS.

I work hard with course teams to secure exciting and challenging placements which encourage our students to be brave and insightful, to question practice and to use their clinical skills and business acumen to identify innovative and realistic strategies to advance patient care and public health.

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