UNIVERSITY staff have been recognised for giving dietician students real world experience while they are still learning.

Lecturers at the University of Winchester have been honoured with an award from the British Dietetic Association (BDA) for developing new practice-based learning that provides early exposure to hospital wards.

The Mealtime Assistant Volunteer Placement, created by Dr Emma Parsons, senior lecturer and programme lead in nutrition and dietetics, and Irantzu Arregui-Fresneda, lecturer and year one module lead for dietetic practice education, received the Dame Barbara Clayton Award for innovation. 

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The scheme started in 2021 and more than 70 students have taken part. This is the first of five placements for student dietitians provided by Winchester, the only university in the UK offering such a placement.  

The placement allows students to begin clinical training in a hospital setting within their first semester.  

The student volunteers’ work involves preparing patients and their environment for meals, supporting them with completing the meal ordering system and assisting patients with food and drink at mealtimes.

Dr Parsons believes the placement ran over a long enough period for them to build up a rapport with the staff and patients. 

In addition, the programme provided the hospital with extra eyes, ears, and hands at mealtimes, some of the busiest periods on any ward. 

Hampshire Chronicle: Student and hospital volunteers with the awardStudent and hospital volunteers with the award (Image: University of Winchester)

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Dr Parsons said: “It allows the ward staff to flag up the people who need more help at mealtimes and allows staff to focus on other duties.

“Receiving the Dame Barbara Clayton Award was an absolute honour. We would like to extend our sincere thanks to all stakeholders for their ongoing support with this innovative practice-based learning.” 

The CEO of the British Dietetic Association, Liz Stockley, visited Winchester to present the award.

She said: “Hearing first hand from the volunteer coordinators and the students taking part, gave me a real understanding of just how important this practice-based learning has been for everyone involved, but especially the patients that have been supported at mealtimes.”  

The scheme was also shortlisted in the ‘Creative Provision of Placements’ category at the 2023 Chief Allied Health Professions Officer (CAHPO) Awards.