Growing up, Sharnie Dwyer wished there’d been more dietitians with an understanding of women’s health to help her and her teenage friends navigate the potential minefield of disordered eating. So when it came time to choose a career, she followed her passion and chose to study a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics at Griffith University to help women like her.
After completing her Honours year at Gold Coast Uni Hospital, Sharnie graduated with First Class Honours, having also been awarded the Griffith University Clinical Excellence Award in 2018 during her clinical placements at Queensland Health in Cairns and Logan Hospital. She then went straight into private practice in a GP clinic doing general dietetic work.
It was here that she realised that dietetic information specific to women wasn’t something in which many people specialised. “Six months later a friend of mine sent me a job advertisement for a dietitian position within a women’s specialist clinic (obstetrics and gynecology). It was one of those moments that you think to yourself ‘I’ve probably got a one in a million chance of getting this, but I’ll give it a go.’ The rest is history.
“I’ve since been upskilling in my area of practice and really focusing on niching down my practice in women’s health. I just feel so fortunate that I get to combine my passion and work every single day!”
Sharnie specialises in women’s health nutrition, which covers topics such as: optimising dietary intake for management of symptoms associated with endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, fertility and gastrointestinal conditions; dietary modification for the management of cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, anaemia and other nutritional deficiencies; weight and body composition management; supplement advice; meal planning and shopping tips, quick recipes, time management, snack ideas; and reading food labels and nutrition information. With her extra training in phlebotomy (so she can take blood samples), as well as gaining her Monash FODMAP/IBS accreditation, Sharnie is a one-stop-shop when it comes to women’s nutrition and lifestyle management.
And even though her work requires a lot of paperwork, she couldn’t be happier with her career choice. “I love that I work with likeminded, passionate, strong and independent women every single day!” she says. “I have the privilege of being a part of women’s empowerment journey and a journey to a life they love living. I’ve been through similar women’s health experiences as my patients, so it’s important to me to be a part of that movement towards holistic healthcare; to let women know they have options, and they can play an active role in the management of their conditions.”
Sharnie says one of the most important parts of her job is listening and learning. Her days are often a frenzy of activity between consults. “Patient experiences, even though they might be the same medical condition, are so varied and their treatment plan requires the same individuality,” she says. “Counselling is also a significant portion of my work: explaining what’s normal, what’s not normal, and really getting to know the barriers that are preventing change within my client’s life.
“In between consults and the paperwork, I also contract out to companies and provide a range of nutrition consulting services such as meal plan reviews, analysis and development, product testing and recommendations. I also do my own marketing and social media so there is always something to be done!”
When she looks back on her journey, Sharnie is quick to credit Griffith with giving her the jumping off point for her success. “I could sing the praise of Griffith all over the countryside!” she says. “I feel so fortunate to have been a part of the cohort I graduated with; we were a small but close cohort who actively supported each other to reach our full potential.
“There is also credit to be given to the academic staff who not only shared their phenomenal knowledge, but also supported and guided us on an individual level. There was never a moment you felt lost in crowd or like you were being left behind.
“The mentorship provided during my degree as well as the ongoing mentorship and postgraduate community gave me a seamless transition into the workforce. The connections I made through the Honours program provided an invaluable network of peers for not only clinical practice and referrals but is also a great stepping stone for further study.
“The support and camaraderie among the Griffith Health community set the foundation for us all to succeed.”
Like Sharnie, if you have an interest in health and nutrition, and the ability to communicate with people, an exciting career is open to you in nutrition and dietetics. With Griffith’s Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics, you will learn through extensive hands-on experience in state-of-the-art facilities, including a purpose-built teaching kitchen and a nutrition clinic in the new Griffith Health Centre.