All about dietetic clinical placements

I hope everyone is managing to enjoy some of the British summer weather! I can finally say that I am an officially Registered Dietitian (R.D.) with the Health and Care Professions Council, so today is a good day for me :).

I can only talk of my experience from the University of Surrey of what the placements were like, therefore other universities may differ (mainly differing in at what stage you might the complete the placements and which hospitals are available to you). But I thought it would be helpful to those about to start studying or thinking of studying dietetics to hear about what placements are all about.

So you do three separate placements, and they are called A, B and C, usually all at different hospitals but some people’s A and C may be at the same hospital. All placements require you to keep some sort of folder to document your progression and experiences. Certain tasks/activities/knowledge needs to be signed off at set intervals to make sure that you are progressing as needed, and you have a review with your supervisor weekly (usually) to talk about any issues and what you have achieved the past week. Once you can prove that you have achieved everything required of the placement at the end of your time there, they will sign you off and this will go back to the university. Unfortunately, and I think somewhat unfairly, you are not given a mark for your placement, and it does not contribute to your degree whatsoever, except that you have to ‘pass’ them all in order to continue. For those who are less brilliant at exams and academia but really thrive within the workplace in a hands-on setting, this is a shame. However I have brought this up with university tutors and placement supervisors and I do understand the amount of extra training which would be needed to make sure everyone was marking fairly and similarly, without the use of bias…but still hopefully one day they will count, even if just a small percentage of the overall degree.

Here is a break down of the three placements (from my experience):

A = 4 weeks during the summer in your first year. Consists mainly of shadowing dietitians, nurses and other health care professionals to see what their roles are within the hospital. Usually involves working within the catering department for a few days/1 week (not the best during the summer months, I embarrassingly nearly fainted on my first day!)

B = 12 weeks, anytime around June-December of third year (placement year). The toughest learning curve out of the three, it will have been a full year since your A placement, therefore you are feeling out of touch with the hospital environment, and although they do break you in gently again you are expected to learn/do an awful lot to get your placement signed off at the end of it all. You gradually get more experience and confidence with conducting clinic consultations on a variety of topics, ward work, speaking to patients and writing those all-important medical notes. The aim of this placement is to get up to scratch with all of the things required to be a band 5 dietitian (a recently graduated dietitian is band 5 level) so that during your next placement you are able to work as part of the team without as much instruction. Below is a picture of the learning outcomes I was expected to complete during my B placement during weeks 1-12, where the colours indicate at which stage you should be at which week (red-not completed, amber-completing, green-completed).


C = 12 weeks, anytime around March-August of third year (just before going back for final year). Hopefully you are much more confident with what is expected of you know, and B placement set you up nicely to be able to get stuck in with the job. I had a very early B placement and therefore ended up having 7 months in-between the two, so I felt a little rusty and less confident! Luckily the department I was put in for my C was lovely and after a shaky couple of weeks I fitted in nicely with the team, and actually felt more of a help than a hinderance! The aim of this placement is to ideally be able to do the band 5 role. Therefore run a weekly clinic on your own (unsupervised – arghhh!), have your own wards, have many more responsibilities, make all your medical notes yourself, prepare and present talks to other health care professionals and/or patients… It is very scary knowing what is expected of you at the end, but once you have gotten into the swing of things it feels nice to be entrusted with these responsibilities, and you feel less like a student and more of a member of the dietetic team. Below is a picture of the learning outcomes for my C placement so you can compare the expectations from those of B placement (note no red squares this time!).


Not everyone passes these placements, and not all still want to study dietetics once they have seen what is involved! That is a small minority however, but it is nice to hear about what is expected and other people’s experiences in order to have a broader view of studying dietetics. I didn’t know any of these things when I started out, and although it hasn’t changed my opinion (I love the profession!), it could quite well have done.

As always, feel free to ask me any questions or to share your experiences!

P.s. I have just written a page on prostate cancer and diet research, take a look 🙂

4 thoughts on “All about dietetic clinical placements

  1. Lisa says:

    Hi, although you wrote this article a few years ago, it has really helped to motivate myself and ‘get back on the horse’!.
    I sadly failed my C as things went a little hazy around week 6/7, (I didn’t leave the student role) and only started to grasp independence at the end! I’m due to start my C again over the summer. It has been more than a year (oct2015-jan2016) since my placement and I am mostly terrified haha
    This article has helped me to see the placement for what it is, hopefully I can get stuck in with plenty of self confidence which I lacked before!
    thank you.


    • aboutadietitian says:

      Hi Lisa, thanks for your comment it made me smile to see that something I wrote a while ago has been so helpful. I haven’t written anything on this blog for ages, but you may well have inspired me to do so again! I really hope you enjoy your next placement, and that the team you are put into are supportive and encouraging. I’m sure you will be fine, and trust me you know more than you think you do – so don’t doubt yourself! Good luck 🙂


      • Lisa says:

        Hello again, thought I would let you know that my placement has been amazing!
        I have enjoyed it from the start, and I have 2 weeks to go!
        I have tried my best not to doubt myself, and made sure I have been very open with the dietitians supervising me– rather than keeping everything bottled up.
        Thank you very much for your response, it helped me go into placement feeling ready and much more confident than the last time.
        Your blog will definitely be helping a lot of other students feeling the same way I did! 🙂


  2. aboutadietitian says:

    Hi Lisa, that’s great news – thanks for letting me know! It sounds like you’ve done really well and have managed to build up your confidence again :). Not long to go until you will be registered now!


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