Virginia and Emma discussed issues and challenges when working with people with learning disabilities and Emma´s multiple roles she is currently involved in. Finally, Emma talked about the areas of Dietetics that she hopes may be focused on in the future.
Emma, who is an expert on adult learning disabilities related to dietetics, started her career as a support worker for people with learning disabilities. As a dietician, she has worked in a variety of settings such as community clinics, nursing and care homes, and various hospital wards. In clinical practice, she specializes in learning disabilities related to dysphagia (swallowing difficulties). She is currently also involved in a wide range of supporting programs and projects for healthcare professionals in the field of Dietetics.
In the webinar, Virginia and Emma discussed the following issues and challenges when working with people with learning disabilities:
- What to consider when making a nutrition plan: medical conditions, a patient´s dietary preferences.
- Gathering accurate information: asking appropriate questions, availability of information provided by a patient.
- Communication skills needed to be sure that a healthcare professional´s message is understood by a patient.
- Barriers in communication with a patient: environment factors, medical vs everyday language, processing the question and information by the patient.
- Challenges in communication: a patient´s ability to use and understand verbal and non-verbal language; the use of sign language, practical demonstrations, pictures of objects vs physical objects; a patient´s change of behaviour as a way of communication.
- Multidisciplinary approach: cooperating with various kinds of therapists (speech language therapist, occupational therapist), allied doctors and nurses (gastroenterologist, dietetic assistant practitioner, dietetics support worker), and other professionals (social worker, psychologist).
- Difference between learning disability and learning difficulty.
- Average life expectancy and poor health outcomes related to learning disabilities: constipation, osteoporosis, undernutrition, obesity, and risk for developing related conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, diabetes.
Emma also described the other multiple roles she is currently involved in:
- As a Practice Support Mentor Lead,she supports a wide range of allied healthcare professionals. She helps students and newly qualified healthcare professionals to integrate into the medical staff community within the local area through the Integrated Care System (ICS).
- As a Professional Midwifery Advocate (PMA), she provides midwives with information on their professional development, education programs available, or gives them advice when applying for a job.
- She participates in various projects. She provides incoming overseas healthcare professionals with all information they need for working in the UK. She also works as a reviewer of how the apprenticeship standards and requirements are met by newly qualified healthcare professionals and supports them in their professional development.
Finally, Emma talked about the areas of Dietetics that she hopes may be focused on in the future, including health promotion programs and better understanding of modifiable risk factors from a dietary perspective.