I graduated with a degree in dietetics, after which I worked for the NHS in a variety of roles - first as an adult dietitian, but then I was given the opportunity to move into paediatric dietetics. My NHS roles within the paediatrics were both community and acute roles and included home enteral feeding, paediatric diabetes as well as ward and outpatient caseloads. I enjoyed the close multidisciplinary team working within paediatrics, as well as working closely with the families.
I was open to a change and working for a business like Nutricia was always something that had appealed to me. I already knew that Nutricia was a well-respected nutrition business renowned for its products and services and included teams of expert dietitians, nutritionists, researchers and nurses. I was aware that there would be a broad range of opportunities in working for Nutricia - and I certainly feel I have had the chance to experience something different and exciting while still using my clinical knowledge and skills.
Initially, I worked in a field-based role with our paediatric solutions team, covering two different geographical territories. That was a shift from my previous roles in the NHS in that I was working with a number of different hospitals, a variety of healthcare professionals alongside a number of different teams internally. I then had the opportunity to move into a medical affairs role where I have had experience working across a couple of different roles within the team, which has provided a great range of learning opportunities which I have loved.
The key thread running through all the roles I have had is that Nutricia are the experts in the products we provide. One of the important roles in medical affairs is dealing with the more complex queries relating to our products from healthcare professionals; helping them to understand how our products can be used for different patients, or explaining the intricacies of some of the formulations to support their suitability for a particular patient need. We’re there to provide support, so it’s a sort of partnership - healthcare professionals come to us as the experts in the products they are using to support making the most suitable choice for their patients.
A vital part of this role is ensuring that all our external-facing product information for healthcare professionals is stringently accurate and up-to-date, reflective of exactly what is contained in the product. We have detailed information on the product formulations and we have to make sure this is accurately reflected on the data cards provided to healthcare professionals to enable them to make informed decisions about which products are right for their patients. If, for example, there is a minor change in any formulation in the UK, we’re the ones responsible for ensuring that it is communicated accurately to healthcare professionals and all information is kept up to date.
My favourite part of my job is working directly with healthcare professionals and experts within their various clinical areas in order to deliver educational topics for others. I’ve always liked working with people, and that’s the part of this job I enjoy the most: liaising with experts within their fields, discussing hot topics and clinical insights. This includes identifying any emerging areas of clinical interest or research and working in partnership to build credible and topical education and expanding the reach of education and the value this provides.
Nutricia has several different educational avenues, as well as delivering face-to-face congresses and virtual webinars, we also work with healthcare professionals to share clinical case studies and topical articles. These written pieces are often published in Small Talk Magazine, our dedicated educational magazine specifically geared towards paediatric healthcare professionals. The magazine is produced twice a year, and contains a huge variety of articles written by healthcare professionals for healthcare professionals. These articles and case studies are available on Nutricia Academy, our personalised digital learning platform that offers free online educational content on a wide variety of topics such as Cow's Milk Allergy, Tube Feeding and Toddler Nutrition.
What I find particularly rewarding is when we get feedback around the education that we’ve helped to organise. For example, last year was my first time leading on the educational content and speakers for the paediatric day at the Nutricia Annual Congress in London, and it was so gratifying to read through the feedback from the large numbers who attended, saying that they’d gained lots of relevant and practical information to support their clinical practice and the care of their patients. The atmosphere on the day was wonderful and I loved seeing the content I’d help shape making an impact.
Now, with Allergy Awareness Week coming up, we have a role in awareness and education around Cow’s Milk Allergy - because we know that current evidence suggests cow’s milk allergy is the most common food allergy in infancy and young children, impacting around 2-5% of infants. The burden of Cow’s Milk Allergy extends beyond the day-to-day management of symptoms, because it can also impact the quality of life in the short and long term for the patient and their family, and is associated with the future risk of other allergic atopic conditions. On top of that, there is the burden it creates for the wider healthcare system, in terms of the financial impact of the direct and indirect costs associated with managing the allergies.
Given that my own child had a Cow’s Milk Allergy in infancy, I have first-hand experience of the worry, stress and anxiety that families go through when navigating such a diagnosis. I was fortunate to be in the informed position of knowing what signs and symptoms to look for, but I’m very conscious that many people don’t have that existing inside knowledge. It’s really important that there is an appropriate and timely diagnosis to limit the extent of the burden, and ensure that the patient and the family are getting the right level of information and support - because symptoms can be complex, debilitating and life-threatening in some situations. So it's vital that we support education around allergies, providing evidence based advice and signposting to guidelines that support the correct management of allergies and Cow's Milk Allergy.
Having timely and allergy-focused assessments completed in a balanced way that follow the right diagnostic pathways is vital, otherwise signs can be missed. We aim to provide tools and education that support healthcare professionals and parents on that journey, and to point them towards the guidelines that professional bodies produce for navigating appropriate diagnosis. A key time for infants and their parents is around the time of weaning, as that’s sometimes when symptoms come to light, or for those already with a confirmed food allergy diagnosis the worry about when and how to introduce different foods. Additionally, there are many charities that provide a wealth of resources, many of whom we are proud to call partners, on how to manage allergies and Cow’s Milk Allergy, especially during challenging times like the weaning period.
We know that breast milk is the best feeding option for all infants, including those with Cow’s Milk Allergy. But those infants that aren’t breastfed and require a hypoallergenic formula, we ensure that the information about these products Nutricia produce is scientifically credible, clinically relevant and balanced. We also develop support tools to help healthcare professionals manage their caseloads; things like parent guides, pharmacy guides and recipe books.
Nutricia prides itself in providing value to HCPs in the form of education, service support, resources and future product development; the role medical affairs teams play in the delivery and development of this education and support through collaboration with experts within their fields is integral. This is available for healthcare professionals so that they can be secure in the knowledge they are supported with the most up-to-date information to help them provide care to their patients.
To read more stories like Vicki’s, visit the Nutricia Life homepage.