Helen feeds her knowledge to help patients

Locala dietitian Helen Berry fed her knowledge as well as her body to experience what it’s like for patients who need to use a feeding tube.

Helen and her colleagues working with patients who need to use a feeding tube inserted in their nose (naso-gastric feeding). Rather than just using her clinical expertise and reading the most up to date research, Helen decided to experience it for herself and had a tube fitted for five days, using it 24 hours a day as a patient would - with the aim to get a better understanding and improve empathy for those patients with a debilitating condition that affects their ability to do something that we all take for granted-eat and drink. 

That meant having no food or drink, all her nutrition was provided via the tube during the test.

“I feel it is extremely important as a clinician to understand what our patients go through and so I thought ‘what’s better than spending some time walking in their footsteps?’”, Helen said.

“Having the tube is definitely not easy as you don’t realise the practical impact it has, or most importantly the impact it has on your quality of life, such as missing out on socialising with work colleagues, no morning coffees and no reason to escape “to put the kettle on”.

“For example, setting up feeding system in a morning certainly takes a lot longer than just grabbing a bowl of cereal and heading out of the door – you have to plan ahead.

“Hopefully, my experiences will help colleagues provide an even better standard of care for our patients and make sure we continue to meet their needs effectively.”

Helen is now sharing her experiences with colleagues via a video blog and will be writing up a case study and attending training events and meetings so that colleagues can get a better understanding of the system and its practical impact on patients.

Natalie McMillan, Locala’s Interim Chief Executive, said Helen’s efforts were an inspiration to other colleagues.

“Our colleagues are constantly coming up with innovative ways to improve their knowledge and share that learning and Helen’s efforts are a fantastic example of that.”

Locala Adult Community Therapy Service dietitians provide advice, treatment and support to all patients within South Kirklees requiring artificial (enteral) nutrition via a feeding tube.  Most commonly those patients who are unable to swallow (dysphagia), neurological conditions e.g. Motor Neurone Disease or after having a stroke.