Farm life plants seeds for career in nutrition

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Farm life plants seeds for career in nutrition


USC graduate dietitian Hayley Parker

18 May 2018

USC graduate dietitian Hayley Parker is using the lessons learnt from life on a farm at St George in western Queensland to nurture her clients to embrace healthy lifestyles.

Hayley graduated from USC recently with a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics and is working as a private practice dietitian in Mackay for CQ Nutrition.

“I'm a farmer's daughter and throughout my life I learnt that there were many determinants of a successful crop. This is the same approach I take as a dietitian,” said Hayley, who grew up surrounded by sorghum and chickpeas on a dry land farm 600km west of Brisbane.

“You need to plant the seed of nutrition with clients, empower them by growing their knowledge and understanding of nutrition and then nurture them to achieve their goals.”

Hayley said her career goal was to change people’s perceptions on what a dietitian did so they became the first point of contact for those most in need of evidence-based nutritional advice.

“People are wasting hundreds of dollars on one-size-fits-all programs and products when this often is not the case as everyone’s situation is different. People would get more benefit from seeking individualised advice from a dietitian.”

The 23-year-old, who completed senior at boarding school at Concordia Lutheran College in Toowoomba, said she chose to study at USC after attending Open Day at the Sunshine Coast campus.

“Coming from a small town, I found the other universities that I had visited were overwhelming whereas USC was relaxed and welcoming,” she said.

The highlights of her degree were clinical placements in her home town where she adapted a healthy eating lifestyle program to a rural setting, and a four-week placement at the hospital at nearby Roma.

Placements at the Bloomhill Cancer Care Centre at Buderim, Metro North Hospital and Health Service in Caboolture and in the surgical and rehabilitation wards at hospitals in Maryborough and Hervey Bay also provided valuable work-integrated learning.

In her final semester, Hayley volunteered as a research assistant for a USC study investigating changes to body composition, dietary intake, sleep, physical activity and metabolic rate during the three trimesters of pregnancy.

She said the biggest benefit from studying at USC was the support she received from lecturers and supervisors.

“What I liked most was that they were easy to approach and talk to. And getting to live in my childhood holiday destination was an added bonus.”

Applications are now open for mid-year entry to study at USC, with Semester 2 starting on 23 July. USC’s annual Open Day will be held at its Sunshine Coast campus on Sunday 22 July.

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