Fleur Bugeja
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Fleur Bugeja

What is your name and what is your official designation within the Ministry for Health?

My name is Fleur Bugeja and I am an Allied Health Practitioner in the field of Nutrition.

Where do you work and what do your duties entail?

I am currently working as a nutritionist within the primary care setting. I deliver nutrition services at various Health Centres and Community Clinics around Malta.

Services include the provision of nutritional advice and educational talks to different categories of the population within the community. Here, scientific evidence-based information ab​out how food impacts the health and wellbeing of humans is given. Another role is that of managing and running weight management programs across the island. In such programs my role is to educate, equip patients with certain skills, help and support patients to lose weight in a healthy manner for life.

How long have you been working with the Public Service?

I am in my fourth year of work with the Public Service.

Are there any specific qualifications required for your post?

In order to work as a Nutritionist, one must complete Bachelor’s degree in Human Nutrition with a total of 180 ECTS credits at MQF/EQF level 6. Another option is available for students who first enrol in a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Food Science and Nutrition, or a related Health Science degree at 180 ECTs credits, and then study nutrition as second cycle at either Postgraduate or Master level. To obtain registration with the Council for Professions Complimentary to Medicine (CPCM), the student is expected to carry out a minimum of 400 hours of supervised practice under professional supervision of a CPCM Registered Nutritionist.

What attracted you to take up your profession and to the health service?

Ever since I was a child, I always knew I wanted to be in a health profession which involves meeting people, network, work in a team and help people get better. My mother was a nurse and I used to love going through her nursing books and I knew healthcare was for me. As I grew older, I developed a passion for educating, for food and for health. I was intrigued by the way food impacts wellbeing and I wanted to share what I learnt through research with patients.

What motivates you most?

My patients give me the best feeling. It is always rewarding to know that every time I offer nutritional advice to a patient or deliver a health educational talk to groups of people, I am making a positive impact on these individuals. My biggest motivator is knowing that I am making a difference by changing peoples’ attitudes and behaviour towards their relationship with food, their health, and their lifestyle. I know that through my interventions, I am equipping individuals with skills and helping them achieve a better quality of life.

What about the teamwork between different professions/roles involved in relation to patient care?

Nutritionists work within a team in order to provide holistic care to patients. The profession allows us to work closely with other professionals in the multidisciplinary team, including doctors, nurses, dieticians and physiotherapists.

Can you give us one challenge and one success story?

The biggest challenge I’ve experienced throughout the past years was Covid-19 and the impact it had on the service. Since my work entails talks to groups of people and classes in a group setting, the service had to stop with immediate effect once the numbers of positive cases were soaring. The service had to switch to telemedicine, where classes were being held online and patients were followed up by regular phone calls. However I missed the face-to-face interaction with clients. I am extremely grateful that technology allowed us to carry on with our work, despite the limitations.

One success story which I will forever remember was a middle-aged man living with class 3 obesity who was referred to our service. Besides obesity, the man was pre-diabetic, had cholesterol and hypertension which were controlled by medications. He was widowed and his meals were basically daily take-outs from the pastizzi shop round the corner. Throughout the weight management sessions he managed to shift his mindset, he learnt skills like reading food labels, cooking simple basic meals at home, batch cooking, managed to lower his sugar and salt intake, and included a daily 30min walk in his routine. By the end of the twelve weeks of the program, he successfully lost 21kg, his blood sugar levels were stable and his doctor lowered his blood pressure medications. It was a huge win for both of us.

What advice would you give to young students considering taking up this profession?

I would like to tell students that if they have patient care at heart and have a profound passion for the science of nutrition and health, to go for it! I don’t regret switching careers to follow my dreams and ambitions. Being a nutritionist gives me incredible satisfaction, especially when I see clients making progress not only on the scales, but by feeling better both physically and mentally, improving other aspects of their health, such as lowering their blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar levels, and regaining their confidence in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

What are the benefits of working with the public service?

Among the many benefits of working in the Public Service, personally I find that job security and job stability are highly important. One case in point is the Covid19 scenario, which affected many jobs in the private sector, but employees within public service kept their jobs despite the challenges. Employee support is paramount in the Public Service, whereby employees are provided with family-friendly measures, the opportunity for remote working in certain instances, and mental health support, among others, which facilitate a better work/life balance. The Public Service also gives its employees opportunities to grow academically, improve ones’ skills and knowledge, and supports continuous development through training and by providing the possibility of study leave.​ ​