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Spotlight on: Deidre Burns

Clinical Dietitian in Inpatient Care & Dysphagia Management 

Deidre Burns is an Inpatient Dietitian at Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville, and Chair of the Dietitians of Canada Dysphagia Assessment and Treatment Network. Deidre acquired her Biology and Nutrition degrees at Acadia and completed her internship at the QEII in Halifax. She has participated in many Dysphagia courses including "Dysphagia Assessment and Management in the Acute Care Setting" (NSH&S), "The Other Side of the Spoon" (Peter Lam), Dysphagia Intensive (DC, CASLP & CAOT). She also attends the Dietitians of Canada Conference each year.  Deidre has been a guest speaker re: Dysphagia for many organizations including Dietitians of Canada, DC Gerontology Network, Acadia University and the Nova Scotia Continuing Care Network. Deidre lives in Berwick with her “husband” Kriss.  She has two daughters, a son and an infant granddaughter.  She loves basketball and all things adventure.


What first sparked your interest in nutrition?

I have always had a keen interest in how and why things work. I loved Chemistry, Physics and Biology in High school and thought I would like to be a physician. I decided to start with a Biology degree at Acadia.  As everyone knows, if you want to be healthy, you have to eat well, so I thought Nutrition would be a great “elective” for a prospective physician to take. I really enjoyed Nutrition my first year, so I took another course in nutrition in second year. In my third year I got pregnant and decided that I needed to start thinking about careers that would get me earning money sooner. Biology wasn’t going to get me there so I decided that being a Dietitian would be a great career. I started taking more Nutrition courses and a year after graduating from Biology I graduated with a Nutrition degree.     


What is the most frustrating thing about being in the nutrition profession?
The most frustrating thing is that the science of nutrition is relatively new so there isn’t a strong, long-known body of knowledge to support many of our recommendations. It is very difficult to study nutrients/ nutrition patterns etc… because we can’t control for every variable in real life for long periods of time (and that is what makes the difference). As well, there are a lot of commercial/political ramifications of nutrition studies (lots of people with vested interests) so it is hard to be certain that research findings and reports are not biased. 


How do you promote our profession? What more can we do?
I am a strong believer in professionals working to their full scope. I have a huge interest in Dysphagia and see the value and importance in having a Dietitian involved in the assessment of swallowing issues. This is very much part of the Nova Scotia health care culture, but is not as strongly embraced in other areas of the country. I have been the Chair of the Dietitians of Canada Dysphagia Assessment and Treatment Network for 3 years, have hosted a number of Dysphagia Learning sessions and am currently working on developing Dysphagia Learning modules for Dietitians of Canada, expected to be released in April 2017. I think it is important that we promote our diverse roles in all areas of practice, so that other Dietitians, members of the health care teams and the general public better understand what we as Dietitians can do.  


If you weren’t a Dietitian, what would you be?
I love taking things apart, fixing them and putting them back together (I have to do it to my washer about once a year). I also love demolition and construction. If I wasn’t a Dietitian, I think I would like to be a handy person.


Who is your strongest supporter?

My strongest supporters are my boyfriend and my Mom.  They are both extremely good at taking on my “Mom” roles when I have to go to conferences, etc… or am at work late doing urgent patient care or working on projects. 


Is there any food or nutrition related book or documentary that really changed the way you think about what you eat?

No… I have never actually read a “food” book. I read text-books in university and spend a lot of time reading research articles now… but with three kids, a grandchild, and all of the craziness of my life, reading books is a low priority.   


How do you unwind when you are not working?

I really like to be busy doing something. If I’m not working, I am usually coaching basketball or on some wild adventure. I run a basketball club in the Valley (Kings Minor basketball) where I have coached Quickstarts (4-7 year olds) up to Bantam level (13- 14). I also coached Junior High School Basketball at Berwick School. My favorite activities, though, are hiking, mountain climbing, snowshoeing, white-water rafting, rappelling, kayaking, camping (especially in the winter) and pretty much all other activities in the great outdoors. I recently hiked the Long Traverse in Gros Morne, hiked up 7 summits in Maine (70 km) in three days, and completed the Cape Chignecto Loop (52 km) in 2 days in full gear.                 


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