Graduate Series: Becoming a Band 5 Dietitian

July 29, 2021 4 min read

Congratulations on landing your first band 5 job! We know that this time is filled with excitement and nerves, as you prepare to become a fully-fledged band 5 dietitian. In this article, we hear from Rían Joyce (aka. @dynamic_dietetics), who started her current post as an acute band 5 dietitian in March 2021, along with some top tips from previous band 5s. We ask Rían your pressing questions including ‘what to expect as a band 5 dietitian’, ‘how you can build your confidence’ and ‘essential resources for newly qualified dietitians’.


What can you expect as a band 5 dietitian?

You will learn something new every day! Day-to-day expectations will differ between trusts, as each dietetic department is run slightly differently. For example, you may be assigned specific wards and tasked with managing your own caseload, or the caseload may be managed by a more senior dietitian who assigns you patients to see each day.

I am currently covering four wards, have a weekly general outpatients clinic (where I see a variety of patient types) and every month I deliver Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (MUST) training to new health care support workers during their induction.


Is it a big transition from placement to a band 5 job?

That really depends on where you get your first job and what placement experiences you’ve had. For me, it was a big transition as my final two placements were completed remotely at the same community trust, thanks to COVID-19. The only experience I had in a hospital setting before starting work was four weeks on my first placement, so it has been a very steep learning curve, but I love it. I’ve been working as a dietitian since the end of March, and I have only just stopped feeling like a student.

Remember, you’ve completed your degree and your placements which have set you up and prepared you for this moment. You’re not alone, you’ll have a team around you of dietitians and healthcare professionals who will be happy to help you along the way. Give yourself time to get familiar with the new computer systems, ward set ups and hospital layout and soon it’ll all become second nature.


How can you build your confidence as a band 5 dietitian?

There are lots of different ways that you can build your confidence as a band 5. Here are some tips:

Ask Questions
Remember that you aren’t going to know it all and it’s not possible to! Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues or supervisors questions, they’d rather you ask, than struggle in silence.
Remember that they’ve been a band 5 too and probably had very similar questions to you.

Creating your own resources can help you to feel confident before going into consultations. For example, you could create:

  • A ready reckoner of your hospital menu
  • A list of available feeds and oral nutritional supplements (ONS) for your trust and a comparison table of their nutritional content
  • A check list of things to cover for patient consultations (e.g., consultation structure, dietetic assessment, anthropometric measurements required, resources needed, patient follow-up and support)

It’s helpful to identify the patients or conditions that you’re working with often, or that you feel you want to understand in more depth. Then scope out courses or resources relating to that field. For example, if you’re working on a stroke ward it might be helpful to attend the British Dietetic Association’s ‘Building on the Skills and Knowledge of Enteral Nutrition course, or to identify a specialist stroke dietitian to shadow or have a phone call with. Ask your department if they have a training budget, as they might be able to fund your study day.


What are the essential resources for any band 5 dietitian?

Here are some of the essentials as you head into life as a band 5:

  • PENG pocketbook
  • Calculator
  • A positive attitude!
  • Your dietetic departments resources - from diet sheets to the Manual of Dietetic Practice, take the time to get familiar with the resources that your dietetic department has on offer and make use of them.
  • A support network - Consider joining your local British Dietetic Association (BDA) branch and attending their events. This is a great way to meet other dietitians in your local area.

How do you manage your work/life balance as a busy band 5?

With such a busy work schedule, it’s really important to make sure you’re resting. My six top tips would be:


  1. Make an effort to/try to leave work on time
  2. Avoid having your work emails on any of your personal devices
  3. Switch off at lunch, trying to eat away from your desk and go for a walk if possible
  4. Do something you enjoy in the evenings to help you to switch off and relax
  5. If you need support or help, ask for it
  6. Try to plan out your work day/week in advance to help you to stay organised

How long should you work in your first band 5 role for?

This is really a personal choice and depends on so many factors. Don’t rush to become a band 6, use your time as a band 5 to gain as much experience as you can and begin to understand what areas of dietetics you might like to move up to in a band 6 role

At university, some lecturers recommended we spend at least 12 months at a band 5 level, but if you feel ready to make that move sooner, that’s totally fine.

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment of our graduate series, looking ahead to band 6 and how you can prepare for this.

And finally…

  • Push yourself out of your comfort zone as much as you can, this is how you’ll continue to learn and develop as a newly qualified dietitian
  • Stay inquisitive. If you need support or help, ask for it, everyone will assume you’re getting on fine if you don’t say anything
  • Don’t compare your newly qualified experience to anyone else’s, like placement experiences, they can all differ and comparison isn’t helpful
  • Remember that not every job or team is going to be the one for you, if you’re not happy with your current situation it’s okay to pursue something else - even if you’ve only been there for a short period of time