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By Kasia Jillings
As Kim Ashcroft walks through the dialysis unit at Waikato Hospital, where she works as a renal dietitian, she is greeted by a host of colleagues and patients all eager to say how valuable she is.
It’s funny if I bump into people in the supermarket and they try and look in my trolley to see what’s in there. And it’s quite common if I go up to a ward where someone’s leaving and they have cakes and biscuits out that when they see me they’re like “Oh hell, put them away the dietitian’s coming”.
I know people think we’re the diet police who worry about what everyone’s eating and also that they think we’re perfect all the time but it’s the same as everything - my patients, and the same goes for myself, know what they should be doing but it doesn’t mean they do it all the time. I believe it’s what you do most of the time that matters.
My two biggest downfalls would be cheese and wine. I’m not much of a chocolate person but definitely cheese and wine.
I’ve got two jobs really, as a renal dietitian and as the professional leader of dietetics. I’ve worked in the renal unit for 10 years and I have patients I’ve been seeing since I started so you get to know them really well. That’s one of the things I like about the area I work in.
There are four of us looking after people on dialysis and people that have had liver transplants who have specific dietary requirements. Probably half of the patients have diabetes so I have a lot of input with that as well.
" When patients are sick with kidney disease they sometimes lose their taste... "
In renal we have quite a large role of educating patients. When patients are sick with kidney disease they sometimes lose their taste so I have patients with malnutrition issues who need to eat more. Other patients on dialysis want a transplant and one of the guidelines is you must be a certain BMI, so we help them to lose weight to get on the waiting list. There’s a lot of reinforcement involved. Some do everything you say, some don’t do so well.
The professional leader role is quite new for me. It’s a job where I monitor the 26 dietitians from the DHB. They all work in different areas. It’s really more about their personal development than managing them day to day.
I live in Raglan. My partner and I have a lifestyle block out there. In the weekend it was so beautiful we just sat on the deck having a glass of wine. Also in my spare time I’m a group fitness class instructor. Also I’m learning how to sail and just joined the mountain biking club so I definitely know how to unwind from work.
I’ve always wanted to do something medical. At school I wanted to be a pharmacist and then I wanted to be a physiotherapist but I never really knew much about being a dietitian. When I left school I worked in a medical laboratory for seven years before I went to Otago University to study health science. When I got there I found out about dietetics and that’s where I ended up.
It has been a journey but I know I’m in the right place.
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