You’ve built up your confidence, have some clinical experience under your belt… and now you're thinking about taking the plunge into the world of band 6. In this article, we chat to band 6 dietitians to find out their top tips for moving from a band 5 into a specialist band 6 role.
How do you decide what to specialise in as a band 6 dietitian?
Some dietitians will have always known the specialty that interests them, whereas others prefer to try lots of different areas. Your choice also may be dependent on the jobs available at the time. Try not to overthink it, you can always change your speciality down the line!
It can be useful to shadow different specialities to get an idea of what they do and find out what interests you — don’t be afraid to seek out shadowing opportunities from different departments or hospitals. Attending a multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting or ward round in different specialities (e.g., gastroenterology or stroke) can help you get a feel for the patients and the clinical workload in that area. Following experienced dietitians on social media can also help you to build a picture of what their typical workday looks like.
Try not to fear specialties you don’t know much about. For example, paediatrics and eating disorders are both rewarding specialties to work in, yet some dietitians can be apprehensive about these areas. You’ll always get appropriate support and supervision based on the level of experience you’ve had previously. Departments often have competencies to help build your knowledge if you're new to a specialty, and they’ll support you through these.
Do I need work experience to prepare for a band 6 role?
You can apply for a band 6 role or a band 5 to band 6 progression role in an area you’ve not previously worked in. However, make sure you can show your interest and experience in that area in other ways.
It’s a good idea to have work experience or shadowing relevant to that area, even if it’s as brief as a telephone call with a dietitian who works in that specialty, before applying for a role. Once you’re well established as a band 5, if your hospital has patients in the area you’re interested in, you could ask to pick up some of these patients.
Don’t discount finding experience or chatting with dietitians who work in private practice within your area of interest. Although they might not always be able to offer shadowing opportunities with clients, they may have other projects which they require support with (either on a voluntary or paid basis). This can provide invaluable experience in a specialist area, all of which counts when applying for a job.
Do you need to complete any extra training to become a band 6 dietitian?
Here are some suggested areas to get involved in ahead of your band 6 role:
- Consider joining the British Dietetic Association (BDA) specialist group for the area that you’re interested in. These groups provide specialist dietetic resources and area-specific discussions; they can be a great way of continuing your professional development and building your dietetic knowledge in a specific area. They also offer annual study days which tend to be affordable, particularly now that they’re online.
- Look for specialist study days and/or MSc modules. These will give you area-specific knowledge that can help you to hit the ground running in your band 6 role.
What are your top tips for completing a band 6 application?
In your application and interview, try to showcase your enthusiasm for the speciality and highlight how you’ve gone out of your way to learn about this area.
Experience does not always have to be related to dietetics. Remember to talk about your transferrable skills and experience. For example, you may not have worked within paediatric dietetics, but you have volunteered for a kid’s club or summer camp which highlights your ability to build a good rapport with young people and their parents.
Some jobs will request an experienced band 6, but don’t let that put you off. If a band 5 dietitian shows that they are keen to learn but lacks direct experience in that specialty, you still might have a good shot.