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Return to Practice opens doors for dietitian Della

Return to Practice opens doors for dietitian Della

Date of release: 10 June 2022

Time away has proved time well spent after a determined dietitian retraced her steps – and discovered her passion.

Della-Marie Heck has returned to practice in Dietetics 12 years after leaving the profession and has recently been promoted to a development role in diabetes at The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust.

Latest News: Return to Practice opens doors for dietitian Della
Della-Marie Heck

She is one of many healthcare professionals who pause their career, whether that be for parental leave, travel, caring responsibilities, illness or personal reasons before seeking a return.

Health Education England (HEE) has recognised this, and with the COVID-19 pandemic leaving many pondering a career change, launched its Allied Health Professions Workforce Supply Strategy Implementation Project.

This helps NHS Trusts enhance their processes for attracting, recruiting and retaining AHPs who want to Return to Practice (RtP).

Personal reasons saw Della, 34, pursue other avenues after qualifying as a dietitian in 2009. She worked for a Christian charity, running a bookshop and cafe in central London.

After training for two years, spent six years as a nurse, in the Community at Central and North West London NHS Trust, Dermatology at The Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Trust and in Endoscopy at University Hospitals Birmingham.

While gaining plenty of life experiences that still help her, returning to the profession initially seemed highly unlikely.

“I took four years out and when I looked for a job, I struggled to find anything and lacked the confidence to keep pushing for a role in dietetics,” said Della, from Birmingham.

“I thought 12 years was too long to get back into dietetics, but a door was opened to me, and it’s one I’m thankful I walked through.”

After more than a decade away from her initial specialty, last year Della applied to join The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust’s temporary staffing bank as a Senior Dietetic Assistant.

She supported its community team with virtual consultations, and developed her skills on rehabilitation wards.

With support from the Specialist Dietitian and Community Team Leader and her hard work, Della was re-admitted to the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) register at the end of 2021 and secured a substantive post as a dietitian, a feeling she described as ‘surreal’.

“I felt really rusty initially, and I had to get used to a different way of working, but I felt really motivated to be the best dietitian I could be,” she recalled.

“It was pretty similar to when I studied – there were no major changes, only that I have more grey hairs and less brain cells!

“I would definitely recommend returning to practice. If you have a love and interest in a career, then look for opportunities and seek advice how you can get back into that area.

“My team continues to be very supportive, and my colleagues have encouraged me to reach my full potential.”

Kathryn Robinson, Head of Nutrition and Dietetics at RWT, said: “I realised Della had an interest in diabetes, and she took up the challenge of re-establishing our face-to-face diet education groups for ladies with gestational diabetes.

“Her career continues to develop – she has recently been successful in securing a development post in diabetes with us.

“With her motivation and drive to return to dietetics – bringing with her life experience and skills from other careers – Della has been a real asset to the team.

“Working with a colleague to fulfil her ambition and growing our workforce at the same time is a double win.”

Information how HEE support practitioners returning to practice is available on the Health Education England website.

RWT has held RtP events through its role as part of the Integrated Care System (ICS). Locally, the organisation includes appropriate job adverts welcoming applications from AHPs wishing to return to practice, as well as inviting them to recruitment/careers events.


Notes to Editor

  • For further information, please call Tim Nash on 07714 741097 or email tim.nash2@nhs.net
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