Here are some common thoughts rummaging through my head every single day.
“Wow, I actually am surviving off 5 hours of sleep today. I’m proud of myself!”
“I FEEL AWAKE. Just kidding, never mind. The tiredness just hit. COFFEE PLEASE.”
“This is such a great learning experience. I never knew an RD did this! I love it!!”
“I’m terrified. I’m scared. I’m about to do a presentation I had to prepare day of. Let’s hope nobody asks questions.”
“Did I already wear these pants this week? I need to make sure it’s not obvious that I’m cycling through the same 3 outfits. Let’s pair it with another top. This floral one will do.”
“I love being able to counsel. This patient is awesome and I can’t wait to follow up!”
“Omg. A1c of 11.3??! Let’s get down to the root of this.”
“I just finished charting on this patient. Time to chart on my other patient before my other appointment comes in. Just kidding, another project from my preceptor just landed on my lap.”
“I have 30 minutes of free time? Time to study for my RD exam!”
There are many more thoughts than this. It’s stressful but SO rewarding! Being a dietetic intern is an amazing experience. An experience filled with learning opportunities, challenges beyond your comfort and a continual process to learn about how you work as an individual and team.
As an intern, you’re on your toes all the time. You work at least 8 hours a day (sometimes even more). Flexibility, being self-motivated, ability to analyze and have interpersonal skills are so important. Same like many other jobs out there!
The flexibility aspect is key. One day you’re here, another day you need to drive 15 minutes south to another location. That’s just how it is!
Here are 5 tips for a dietetic intern as well as things I have learned in these past 4 months!
1. Always seek to learn, even if you don’t enjoy the specific rotation or project given.
During my internship, there were many times I found myself having low motivation or drive to put in as much effort. For example, I didn’t have the best time cleaning up the corkboards in the kitchen, organizing temperature logs or changing documents up in an excel document for 3 hours straight. I thought, “Is this really what I signed myself up to do? I deserve to do something that contributes more to my future as an RD.” I don’t enjoy sitting in front of a computer for 8 hours. I want to interact with patients, counsel patients and feel like I’m making bigger of an impact.
This goes for a lot of things! School, work, life. There will always be a class you don’t enjoy. There will be a task you are given at work you don’t have as big of a desire to complete. In life, there are daily responsibilities you are required to do and yup, it’s not exactly enjoyable.
In the end, it’s MAKING THE DECISION to find ways to learn, even if you don’t feel like it. For example, by reorganizing the corkboards in the kitchen, I was able to update new cooking temperatures logs, food safety rules and kitchen safety regulations. By organizing temperature logs, I was able to communicate with food service staff and provide a more productive way to take temperatures of hot-holdings foods. This affects the whole hospital because food safety is a central aspect! I was also organizing the stock list of hospital foods, supplements/tube feeding formulas and kitchen supplies – which helped me understand the more of the specific brands and types of products the hospital orders.
As much as I wanted to just go home on days I felt unproductive, I began to shift my perspective to look at these situations as a learning experience. I made up several assignments to complete myself, brought it up to my preceptor and now, she plans to have future interns incorporate my project in future rotations! Basically, be a self-starter! Complete your projects but also find ways to incorporate HOW you can contribute to your growth and interests.
2. Treat your internship as a 10-month interview.
How many times have I heard this before starting my rotations? Probably more than enough. Every single person you meet, you work with or talk to can be your future supervisor or boss. Also, I found out that many interns who graduate end up going back to one of the facilities they interned at. 4 months in and I’ve already worked with 7 interns who graduated from my program.
I’m always reviewing my material relating to my rotation and also for my future rotations. By treating my internship like a 10 month interview taught me to be more professional. Even our weekly classes require us to dress business casual.
Brush up on that Medical Nutrition Therapy and show them what you’re all about. Build relationships not only professionally with your preceptors but personally as well! Get to know them as people!
3. Organization and planning is extremely important.
What would I do without my planner?!? Before my internship started, I wrote down exactly where I would be every week for the next 10 months. I printed out my schedule and laminated it to pin on my corkboard. I wrote down the locations, jotted down addresses and the RD’s name. A week before my next rotation, I would email them my name, the internship I was from and the dates I was scheduled to be with them.
Make sure you know exactly who you will be working with, where you will be and what time. Always ask about additional materials you will need to bring as well as certain nutrition topics you should brush up on. Plan plan plan! Organize yourself so your rotation will run more smoothly!
This taught me to be on top of all my responsibilities. I always made sure I had time to cook my meals, pack my meals, clean the kitchen, clean my room, do laundry, take care of my dog, run errands, go to the gym/workout, spend time with people and give myself some rest. That last one still needs work. Without proper planning, I would feel too flustered with all my responsibilities because there is no priority list. I made daily checklists of what I need to do everyday!
4. Take initiative and mold your learning experiences to fit YOU.
There were rotations where the RD was so busy that I ended up having no assignments. My internship director gave us a list of competencies (like a syllabus) to complete at each rotation to make sure we’re getting the experience we need. In the end, we need to complete all the requirements because they will all be on the RD exam, eek!
If your preceptor has not checked in with you…ASK. Be bold. You are a dietetic intern now, not an undergrad student. There is no more hand holding in the internship. You need to get yourself out there and find something to keep you busy. Your preceptor will love this. Your preceptor will see this as a skill that has you stand out as an intern. One of my go-to assignments to create for myself is to create new handouts or find the latest research about the population the rotation is catering to. For example, the rotation counseling. I created myself a list of common problems that clients come in for, such as diabetes, hypertension, weight loss, physical activity, etc. I make sure there are handouts for EACH problem and if they need to be updated, do it. If not, try to find ways to ADD to it. There is always something to do!
Overall, don’t just wait for your supervisor to tell you what to do. Go above and beyond. Show them what you are capable of because you are capable of so much if you GO FOR IT!!
5. Remind yourself WHY you are in this.
Whether you are currently contemplating on applying for internships this round, in the process of applying or currently in your internship rotations, remind yourself of the reasons. It’s difficult, especially since we’re paying for the program (some offer a stipend). All RD’s had to go through this internship to get to where they are now, so there aren’t excuses. This internship is such a valuable learning process and you will learn so much more than you can imagine. Many RDs say to value the internship because you’ll be expected SO much more as an RD. I totally agree.
For now, I’m learning to ride with the waves, finding ways to go above and beyond & trying to figure out… what exactly I want to go into after this internship ends. I’m thinking of part time clinical dietitian and part time instagram/blogging!!
I’m taking this RD route because I want to give back to the field. I personally have struggled with disordered eating habits in the past and because of that, I want to be a voice in the field to promote balanced eating. I want to educate people on the importance of food and teach them healthy dietary habits according to their lifestyle. Everyone is different. Everyone likes to eat different foods whether it be from culture, tradition, habit, etc. We all have different lifestyles. Let’s work together and find out what works for you, yeah?
I’m doing this because God has brought me this far to use my story for something greater than keeping it to myself.
Getting into an internship isn’t easy but with persistence, you will get to where you’re meant to go. For me, this was not something I was completely confident about because I doubted myself multiple times. God is sovereign through all this and I am so grateful for these opportunities!
Peace out. Time for a 2 week break, woohoo!
Time to sleep, cook and bake lots.
What’s my on to do list? Gingerbread cookies, banana walnut bread, hot cocoa, gingerbread pancakes and more. Lots more.
Oh, and also study for my clinical rotations a bit. I start in January! For now, happy happy friday!