Erica Ascenza, specialist dietitian. What I have learned from my patients

Erica Ascenza, specialist dietitian. What I have learned from my patients

The most valuable lesson I have learned working with patients is that they want to be heard and listened to properly. Patients notice when their clinician is distracted or doesn’t remember information that they shared in our earlier consultations. This isn’t a excessive expectation, my patients don’t expect me to remember every little detail by heart, but they simply want to be taken seriously and they want me to understand their symptoms and how they impact on their life.

In my experience of both a clinician and a person affected by IBS myself, often people out there dismiss IBS symptoms as just common indigestion or poor eating habits and merely the individual’s responsibility.

IBS can be seriously debilitating and severely impact one’s quality of life. It is a complex condition without a single ‘fits all’ solution. Patients and Clinicians need to work together to find an effective management plan tailored to the individual patient.

And for this, it is important that the clinician is familiar and clued in with the patient’s situation. Patients want to see that their health care professional is flexible and willing to adapt the care plan to their individual requirements and circumstances. I have also noticed that patients want simple solutions and not some complicated plan they can’t even remember after their consultation. As a clinician, I know that I need to provide clear and concise advice to avoid confusing my clients and guide them effectively.

What I believe makes a good clinician is empathy and care. Patients want to feel supported and cared for. Not treated as a number on a file. I want my patients to know that ultimately we are both people and I can be relatable and supportive as a person too. Patients want to trust their clinicians to really care for them and want to be sure that they would do the best they can for them and not only the minimum they have to do for their job.

In my years of clinical work, I have learned that often people who are unwell can be very sensitive and need a tactful and patient approach to help them feel at ease with their carers. I developed a level of emotional stability which I believe is necessary to work in the field of healthcare. This helps me to deal with the daily stresses and strains of working with often distressed and unsettled patients.

Some patients may be particularly challenging but those are usually the ones who are most desperate and require compassion and empathy in order to understand them. I learned not to judge and try to understand where the patient’s anger and frustration come from and help them work through them.

Last but not least, Patients want a health care provider who is confident in their assessment and care plan so they can trust the solution offered to them and feel confident that it will actually help them. I keep my knowledge and skills up to date with training and research in order to provide the most advanced medical knowledge, treatments and care plans for the individuals I look after.

I am sure that the longer I will work with people who are affected by IBS, the more I will learn from them and be the best Dietitian I can be for them. It is the patient that leads the Dietetic consultations and the care plan is always negotiated and tailored to the individual’s needs and requirements, and should never prescriptive or imposed on patients.


Erica Ascenza

Specialist Dietitian