During TUC's Young Worker Month we sat down (over email) with Katherine Igidbashian who was recently elected to the reserved Young Worker seat on the BDA Trade Union NEC Representative. We wanted to know how
How has COVID-19 had an impact on Young Dietitians and Dietetic Support Workers?
There are teams where the dietetic workers have all upskilled to be able to help on ITU so they could support our colleagues. It’s been a particularly stressful time with all the changes in guidelines and issues with PPE supplies. We’ve had anxiety in teams where they know they're not getting as many referrals as they normally would but we know how vulnerable our patients are in this state. But we’ve adapted our practice to try and provide extra support on the COVID wards with feeding our most vulnerable, carrying out mouth care for those who are dying as a way to help maintain comfort and dignity. Our dietetic assistant took the lead on doing our nutrition rounds for the COVID wards but we felt that with the guidelines and issues around PPE we had a dilemma over how we could feed patients who could cough on us with no fit masks. It was a challenge but we made sure we raised the issue of safety while at work.
How can the BDA support Young Dietitians and Dietetic Support Workers?
Many young workers would be keen to see the offer of more online (free, when possible) CPD courses as face to face ones are not available. Offer constant mental wellbeing support. Young workers also need support to stand up and raise concerns with low PPE supplies and concerns of our safety and palying an active role in the fight for a pay rise.
Even more so following the attack on us in the press, there’s been a brilliant response but it needs to be channelled into positive action around campaigning for a pay rise. The recent attacks in the press just felt uncalled for and just shows the ignorance around what we do.
How do you feel COVID-19 has affected young people in general?
a. I feel there is more frustration than fear among young people as the virus is not a big health threat to them but it has stopped them from enjoying the things they used to - attend uni classes and socialize, hang out with friends in pubs/clubs, practice certain sports, etc.
b. I think we’ve been used as scapegoats by the government around cases going up. Yes, there have been people who have been irresponsible around this but when there has consistently been mixed messages around COVID this has led to confusion and frustration. We’ve encouraged to work from home but then with many young people unable to due to their jobs this is a massive contradiction, also the eat out to help out scheme which we were encouraged to use has now been used as a means to blame us for the increased cases when really it shows that our government has put profit before people – yet again.
What issues are facing Young Workers in the NHS at the moment?
a. Not being able to see their parents / relatives and friends - parental support and social life are usually quite needed for this age group.
b. There’s a particular strain on us where we can’t see our family and friends – our work/life balance is off which is likely to have a particular impact on our mental health. We’re not just workers – we have a life outside work but COVID has really limited this and it’s made it a lot harder to switch off.
Why do you think young dietitians and dietetic support workers should get active in the BDA Trade Union?
a. Following the recent comments on our profession in the press, seeing our profession come together to defend against ourselves shows just what we could do as a profession to fight for better working conditions and pay. The NHS is under attack and we need to be able to fight together to defend against the cuts to services, ongoing privatisation and attacks on our pay and working conditions – having a strong union gives us the confidence to be able to do this – but a union is only as strong as its members.