Staff Spotlight

Jessica Chan, Clinical Dietitian


Continuing our spotlight of dietitians during Nutrition Month, we are excited to feature Jessica Chan, a Clinical Dietitian.

“I love food. I love that I can apply my dietetic knowledge to help people make informed food choices and help people learn more about food and nutrition to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.”

Jessica has worked as a dietitian since her graduation and she relocated to Vancouver from Hong Kong last year. “It’s exciting to experience dietetic practice and work culture in a different country. There are always pros and cons in each medical system and it has been a great opportunity to gain new insights and perspectives working in a different environment.”

In her current role, Jessica assesses patients’ dietary needs and advises accordingly. She currently works in different areas of care, including acute in-patient, out-patient in the metabolic and bariatric surgery clinic, as well as the Healthy Heart Program in the Garratt Wellness Centre.

Nutrition is unique

“The interesting part about nutrition and dietetics is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. While there are general healthy eating guidelines for the public, personalized diet recommendations are important for individuals with different needs and medical conditions.”

Jessica shares three examples of why patients require customized nutritional care plans. “Foods high in fibre are normally considered healthy foods we should regularly consume in our diets. On the other hand, for patients who have certain bowel diseases, a high-fibre diet would worsen their medical conditions. Therefore, we would recommend these patients a low-fibre diet. Contrary to popular belief, cancer patients who suffer from a poor appetite and weight loss may actually benefit from a high-protein, high-calorie diet that includes foods high in fat and sugar. For patients with eating disorders, we would focus on building a positive relationship with food and promoting mental wellbeing.”

Nutrition and care can be unique to location as well. “I noticed there are fewer geriatric patients who use a feeding tube here but instead opt for at-risk feeding compared to Hong Kong.”

A rewarding career

Seeing your patients make drastic improvements with their conditions is truly an inspirational moment for all healthcare professionals. Jessica recounts an incident in the stroke unit. “There are patients who need to feed through a feeding tube due to limited mobility after a stroke. It is always encouraging to see these patients recover and transition from the feeding tube to a texture-modified oral diet such as a puree diet. When their swallowing ability improves, they can progress towards a regular diet. It’s always thrilling to see them enjoying food as they used to.”

“In the out-patient setting, it’s also nice to see bariatric patients who improve their dietary and lifestyle choices, which in turn improves their chronic medical conditions.”

Patient-centred care

The interdisciplinary team—which also contains physicians, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapist, speech-language pathologists and social workers—often have meetings and rounds to help determine the best approach to provide care for patients.

“Our team ensures we are up-to-date on the latest research and studies to ensure our practice is evidence-based. We strive for better results by focusing on patient-centred care and ensuring that the patients and their family can make informed decisions. As healthcare professionals, we focus on the best approach for our patients and advocate for them.”

One example of how the team advocates for their patients is expanding the delivery of care. Jessica tells us that consultations over phone calls or through emails and Zoom have become the new norm and can benefit patients with mobility issues. Telehealthcare has become one of the biggest changes that occurred since the pandemic and can be efficient for healthcare providers as well as patients.

As a dietitian, Jessica enjoys eating foods like bacon, chocolate, ice cream, sausages and more. While this may be a surprise to some, Jessica tells us that there are no evil foods and moderation is key! “It’s important to take care of both your physical and mental health.”

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