Sarah-Jane Nelson (Hughes)

Sarah-Jane Nelson

Principal Dietitian and Clinical Lead, Regional Intestinal Failure Service, Northern Ireland BANS Co-Chair (Intestinal Failure), NI BAPEN representative, BAPEN Executive

What made you apply for your roles of BANS Co-Chair and BAPEN representative for Northern Ireland?

Way back in 2009, I was encouraged by my surgeon boss who was a member of BIFA (British Intestinal Failure Alliance) get involved in BAPEN, and I initially joined the BANS (British Artificial Nutrition Survey) committee. I was then nominated to apply as Northern Ireland representative in 2011. Both of these roles came about via combination of good-natured coercion from others and a willingness to be involved!! Since 2018, I have also been involved as a member of the Executive.

What sort of jobs are you involved in your respective BAPEN roles?

As Co-chair of BANS, I head up the Intestinal Failure Registry and have been involved in creating and managing this very important work on behalf of NHS England and BAPEN. This has been a mammoth but extremely worthwhile project which aims to be able to reflect the very specialist nature of Intestinal Failure activity across the UK. This project provides a platform to collate and report clinical information to measure patient outcomes, inform improvements in service arrangements and treatments, and monitor manufacturing capacity.

As Northern Ireland rep, I’m now delighted to have a resident side kick, Pete Turner. Together we aim to inform and disseminate relevant information across the province and encourage others to attend conference and get involved in the activities of BAPEN. We hope to host a regional education meeting in the next few months which would be a great opportunity.

How important do you think it is for BAPEN to be effectively represented in different regions around the UK?

I think it’s very important for BAPEN to be effectively represented across the four nations – we can learn from each other and share experiences from our different settings. We have been able to utilise knowledge shared from BAPEN colleagues to inform government policy in Northern Ireland, alter practice and shape services, and vice versa to be able to showcase some high-quality nutrition activities taking place in Northern Ireland. Our celtic voices may be small in number but they are usually loud in volume!

What have you most enjoyed working on in your roles so far?

I have enjoyed the challenges and developing many, many new skills. I have been afforded lots of networking opportunities which have led to involvement in a number projects across Europe and UK. Within Exec, it has been a pleasure to work alongside and learn from our esteemed Trustees, who bring a wealth of experience to BAPEN. One additional highlight was hosting the BAPEN conference in Belfast in 2019 and being able to show off some of the wonderful delights that the city has to offer.

How do you juggle your two BAPEN roles alongside your work as well?

Sometimes I’m not sure I juggle them very well. As an already busy clinician and mum of 4, it can be difficult to manage my workload, and it does require a significant time commitment. But I have a very supportive manager and team who realise the importance of being involved in BAPEN activities and the benefit that is gained through having a national voice. My roles do involve some evening and weekend commitments, but we have achieved a huge amount of work in the last few years making use of the explosion of Zoom for one thing!

Why do you think people should get involved with BAPEN?

If more people get involved, we would be able to achieve so much more than we have already! I would really encourage you to get involved with BAPEN – to whatever degree that may be – if you’re interested.