A glimpse into the life of a research dietitian

Meet Vicky de Ruijter, a 29-year-old Dutch national who joined University College Dublin (UCD) and the Bump2Baby and Me study two years ago. As a research dietitian, she has the exciting task of recruiting, meeting and contacting trial participants. In this blog, Vicky gives you an overview of her typical day.

“I begin my day with a nutritious vegetable and fruit smoothie. I couldn’t go a day without one. If I have visits with participants, I cycle down to UCD because, as a typical Dutch person, I cycle to work! At 8 am, I check my emails from UCD, Bump2Baby and Me, and any new WhatsApp messages from participants. I also respond to WhatsApp messages from participants who are coming in with their infants that day. I help them find the correct building and room for the final visits.”

Vicky cycling to work

“I use my time before visits (which usually start around 10 am) to work on various tasks. These include writing articles for the Bump2Baby and Me participants’ newsletter, sending (reminder) emails with a link to the online questionnaires, uploading weight measurements to the database, sending final visit invites, and making phone calls to schedule final visits with participants. As a research dietitian, one of my current projects involves assessing the nutritional value of participants’ usual diets and how these values may differ across the four different sites: Melbourne, Dublin, Bristol, and Granada. The data comes from questionnaires participants completed at the start of the study when they were 12 weeks pregnant and at the end of the project when their baby was one year old.

On some days, my team and I also have afternoon visits. Once the visits are over, we deep clean all the toys and equipment used during the visit. We process the blood samples in the lab at UCD or the National Maternity Hospital and store them in a -80 freezer. If time allows, I send reports to the participant we have seen for the day, which includes the infant’s measurements and developmental check results. When these activities are completed, my working day comes to an end, and I cycle back home.”

“My favourite part of the project is getting to interact with the mums when their babies turn one year of age, after meeting them during their first trimester of pregnancy and watching their little ones grow and develop unique personalities.”

“I have the pleasure of meeting many different women, each with their own nationalities, backgrounds, and parenting styles. It is truly fascinating to witness mothers conversing with their children in languages such as Irish, Spanish, Polish, Indian, or Portuguese. The project not only brings together women from different cultures but also women with varying degrees of motherhood experience. Some embark on this incredible journey with their first baby, while others are seasoned mothers, joyfully nurturing their third or fourth child. Witnessing the range of parenting styles employed by these mothers, as well as the involvement of partners, adds an additional layer of fascination to the final visits. It is inspiring to see how each family’s unique dynamics shape their interactions and caregiving approaches.”

“Meeting all these incredible mums and babies is what makes my job so much fun!”