20 Mar 2020

We have two sayings in my family: “roll up your sleeves…” and “…navigating by telegraph poles…” More of this later.

I’m sure you will agree that these past two weeks have been extraordinary. The Association had been due to deliver its first development programme to aspiring leaders from within the profession this week. Like most such events we took the decision to postpone in order to protect members time for front line care and to protect the safety of our future leaders and current BDA staff. We haven’t taken this, or any other cancellation, lightly. Members need their Association at times like this more than ever, but the Association has needed to switch focus. The consistently excellent preparation that has gone into events means that they can easily be put on hold, and delivered at another time, thus freeing up the office staff to deal with more urgent matters.

So we have been rolling up our sleeves, possibly metaphorically in some cases but in reality for me. I’ve responded to a number of calls from members who are in front line roles at the sharp end of acute care. I’ve hear from those who work in Public Health roles looking at children’s wellbeing, given that schools are closing and our most vulnerable are at increased risk of food poverty, and those looking out for the needs of our older populations. A number of our specialist groups have also been particularly pro-active in responding to the changing environment and we will keep you updated as we are able.

"Roll up your sleeves"

So, that aside, is there any other reason that my sleeves have been well and truly rolled up? Well, yes! I have been working as a Dietitian for around 16 years, the last 14 or so in a Public Health role. My clinical skills are, to say the least, rusty. But if predictions are correct, we will need all hands on deck at the coal face to support our highly specialised critical care colleagues and release them to deal with the most complex of patients as numbers of hospital patients increase.

So what does that look like for me? Well, to be honest, at this moment I don’t really know. I am on standby, as are the rest of my public health team. I am taking time to think through what my current skills set looks like, where I might be sent and what I could realistically do to support patients and colleagues. It’s all rather unsettling – I don’t think there is any point in hiding that! So how to cope? Be kind to each other, think of others who are worse off, be patient and keep a look out for more advice from the HCPC and your professional body. This is a fast moving and somewhat unprecedented situation, but there are many people working hard to get us the best advice.  

"Navigating by telegraph poles"

So, at the outset I briefly mentioned two sayings in my family and you are probably still wondering what on earth does “navigating by telegraph poles” mean? Well, as a child our Sunday entertainment was to go for a drive as a family and park in a random layby and eat a picnic (different times people!) My father worked for the GPO as a telephone engineer. He knew every back road, lane and hedgerow in the county because he had run all the telephone cables to the poles. We used to say that he would navigate by the telegraph poles – sometimes we took a wrong turn, but he always got us back to where we needed to be because he understood his work so well. He could tell what sort of area we were in by the tautness of the cables, by the number of junction points and by the frequency of the poles.

I think that’s what we are all doing now. We know our dietetic road maps, they are well trodden, we have navigated them for many years and the principles are engrained. Over the coming months there will be many demands, we will make some false turns, no doubt some things will not go according to plan, but we will always come back to what we know as core of our dietetic being and that will keep us focused, energised and working to our single goal – patient care and wellbeing.

Stay safe everyone and do keep in touch and let us know how you are faring. You can follow me on Twitter, visit the COVID-19 advice page and follow the BDA media accounts (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) for further information. 



BDA Blogs


Caroline Bovey

Chair, British Dietetic Association