Life as a Dietetic Intern… Grueling or Rewarding?

This past year I completed my first year of graduate school along with a 24 hours-per-week dietetic internship. Anyone looking to become a registered dietitian must complete a 1200 hour (at minimum) unpaid internship which lasts between 9-24 months. While this process can be extremely overwhelming and downright frightening, it is an unforgettable opportunity that really builds students to learn and grow into a strong dietitian.

I asked multiple dietetic interns 2 of the most important things they learned during their first year, and their biggest piece of advice for future interns. These interns come from all different backgrounds, went to different programs, and have all taken away different key components from their experiences!


Emily Iammarino recently finished her dietetic internship through Cedar Crest College Distance Program. She has already passed her exam and is officially a Registered Dietitian!

“What are 2 of the most important things you learned as a dietetic intern?”

Emily said: 
” In my opinion, while the internship obviously teaches you so much about dietetics and MNT (medical nutrition therapy), the most important thing it teaches you is time management. Balancing 40+ hours per week of supervised practice, school work, and then possibly a part time job (you know, to afford little things like gas) is a lot to handle, and if you aren’t organized you won’t make it through. If time management isn’t your strong suit before the internship, prepare to be an expert by the end.
The second really important thing the internship teaches you is what you like, and what your possible career aspirations are. We all like nutrition, that’s why we’re here, but there are so many different pathways you can take, and the internship helps you to narrow it down. For me, my predictions going in of what I would/wouldn’t like turned out to be pretty spot on, but for a lot of people, it’s a complete surprise.”

“What is your biggest piece of advice for future interns?”

Emily said:
“My biggest piece of advice is to become a sponge. Go into supervised practice every day and just be aware of everything around you. Ask questions, observe whatever you can, and just listen to everything going on. The world of dietetics is so much bigger and so much more in depth than we learn in undergrad, you’ll be amazed how much you can learn just by paying attention and talking to the people around you.”

Follow Emily on instagram @emilyrd_eats for more info and lots of yummy food!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dana Goldberg from the Combined Master’s of Science in Nutrition and Dietetic Internship at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center

“What are 2 of the most important things you learned as a dietetic intern?”

Dana said: 

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions! I was terrified starting my first rotation because I felt like I didn’t know enough. Guess what…you aren’t suppose to know everything – that is why you are there. Your preceptors are there to guide you in your learning and answer questions that you have. Those questions might be about a patient you see, but they could also be about different jobs your preceptor has had in the past or tips for developing your dietetics career. Preceptors are a wealth of knowledge and usually don’t just volunteer all of their information to you. You have to ask the questions ,and I have never had an experience where they aren’t willing to share or help

You may learn more about what you don’t like, rather than what you do like. I went through the first 5 months of my rotations not really liking anything that I did and could never imagine myself working in those settings – it honestly made me doubt whether being an RDN was the right choice. There have been a few rotations that I have enjoyed more than others, but there are also so many areas of dietetics that you may not be exposed to in your internship…so never have a rotation you truly love is okay.”

“What is your biggest piece of advice for future interns?”

Dana said:

“Practice what you preach as a dietitian. Dietetic internships can be extremely busy and stressful, especially if you are also completing as masters degree at the same time (like me). It can be easy to slack off, skip workouts ,and order pizza for dinner, but as future RDN’s, we all know that those choices aren’t the best for our physical or mental health. Try to find other students or interns to take a spinning or yoga class with – it is so much easier if you do it with friends. Make sure you have plenty of fruits and veggies to snack on and get a solid 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Remember, you can’t care for other people if you aren’t caring for yourself!”

Follow Dana on Instagram @thelemonwedge and check out her blog! www.thelemonwedgeblog.com


 

Jessica Wetzel is a dietetic intern at The Ohio State University Undergraduate Coordinated Medical Dietetics Program

“What are 2 of the most important things you learned as a dietetic intern?”

Jessica said:

Each area within dietetics (food service, long term care, oncology, sports) has their own experts. No matter what you learn during your classes, there is ALWAYS more to learn within a specific population. After my hardest semester of classes, I didn’t think I could learn any more. However, it wasn’t until my internship that I learned most of what I know now. Being with experts in each field taught me more than a textbook ever could. I will take this piece of knowledge into the world of dietetics with me by remembering that there will always be a learning curve in a new area.
I did my culminating rotation at a treatment center for eating disorders. After doing a community nutrition rotation at a clinic for underprivileged people focused on weight loss, my world was turned upside down. Looking back, there are many things I said during my prior rotations that I would have been much more sensitive about knowing what I know now about eating disorders. This field is so interesting to me and I could go on for days, but I think it is really important for dietitians to be very aware of the messages that they are promoting. Additionally, eating disorders are a neurobiological disease and if he or she is faced with someone that has disordered eating – the need for help is urgent. Eating disorders cannot be handled by a dietitian alone. The therapy requires an entire team.

“What is your biggest piece of advice for future interns?”

Jessica said:

Remember what you are working towards! It can be discouraging to go through such a difficult curriculum, find an internship, work 1200 unpaid hours – all for a career that doesn’t offer competitive salaries in the end. However, what motivated me to keep pushing was my dream to be able to wake up and pursue a role that I love every day, which is sharing my passion for nutrition with the world.

Follow Jessica on instagram at @peas_and_blessings!


Kelly Combs recently completed her Dietetic Internship through The Ohio State University’s Human Nutrition program. This 10-month program places an emphasis on counseling and motivational interviewing.

“What is the most important thing you learned as a dietetic intern?”

Kelly said:

“Throughout my internship, I learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned specifically about what qualities I need in my future career – I need independence and variety in my job, to be able to participate as a member of a team, to be up and active rather than sitting at a desk, to feel like I am making a change in someone’s life, and to be able to learn. I always thought I wanted to work mainly as a counselor in an outpatient setting, but throughout my internship, I found that to be incredibly exhausting and a little redundant for me personally. Because the internship gives you so many opportunities and different areas to gain experience in, it’s great for teaching you about what you like and dislike in a job. There is no other time in your life that you will be able to experience so many different career settings in such a short period of time, and I learned to accept new and scary opportunities, even if I thought I would hate them.”

“What is your biggest piece of advice for future interns?”

Kelly said:

“My best advice for a future dietetic intern is to really embrace and enjoy the experience. You may think you know what you want to do with your life, but there are so many jobs out there and so many ways to do what you love.  Accept the scary experiences. Enjoy the “boring” rotations. Ask for challenges. Don’t limit yourself to one area because you think that’s what you want. Perhaps you just KNOW you want to work in pediatrics or a clinical outpatient setting, but you should absolutely welcome the opportunity to shadow in geriatrics, long-term care, sports nutrition, research labs, etc. You may find a passion that you never knew was there.”

Follow Kelly on instagram @freeyoursoulfit, on Twitter @freeyoursoulfit, and check our Kelly’s blog at www.freeyoursoulfit.weebly.com!


And finally, I’m going to share my answers to my own questions (;

The two most important things I have learned throughout my first year as a dietetic intern and master’s student:

It is possible. I remember before I started I thought to myself “how am I going to get a master’s degree and work as an intern at the same time? It’s too much!” “How am I going to afford anything if I am not getting paid?” This is a short season in my life. There are of course sacrifices I made such as moving back home to save money, and giving up most of my social life. However, I am exactly where I want to be; on the road to becoming a registered dietitian. If I have to give up 2 years of my life to make that happen, then that’s what I’m going to do.

I am capable. Everything seems impossible until it is done. I came into this internship feeling extremely unprepared and uneducated. Even after 4 years of studying nutrition I did not think I was ready. However, everyday I am learning new skills in my internship and how to apply those in my own practice. This summer I will be doing my clinical rotations 5 days a week and I know I am going to gain an immense amount of knowledge. I am so excited to continue down this path to becoming a registered dietitian!

My biggest piece of advice for future interns:

Work hard, be professional, and enjoy the ride. Like I said above, this is a short season in our lives. It is not always fun, and some days feel like a lot of busy work, however, continue to work hard and show your worth in this industry. Do what your preceptor asks, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! This is your opportunity to network and learn from professionals in the exact field you are going into!

Finally, remember that dietetics is a small community. Never bad-talk any other preceptor or intern to another preceptor or intern. Trust me, they are most likely somehow connected and word can travel fast. Be professional, and just go about your work no matter what other people are saying.

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