Thursday, March 19, 2015

Becoming a Registered Dietitian: How to Succeed in Your Dietetic Internship

Registered Dietitians (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN) are the nutrition experts. We go through many years of school, a dietetic internship, and new RDs will be required to have a Master's degree by 2024. This week we are walking through all the steps to become a Registered Dietitian. We discussed ACEND accredited dietetic undergraduate programs, and today we are discussing dietetic internships.

So, you've completed your undergraduate degree, taken the GRE, and applied for the internship. You wait on your "match." And, now you've been accepted into your Dietetic Internship! You are a big step closer to becoming a RD!

Your Dietetic Internship (DI) is a time of observing and hands-on learning in various nutrition fields. It is a time to confirm that you want to be a dietitian and decide what field of nutrition you are truly passionate about. So here are a few of my tips to succeeding in your dietetic internship.

Internship = Job Interview
Make sure you also treat the internship as a job-interview. Remember to show up on time, be prepared, and dress according to the dress code. Even if you do not plan to work at that facility or you are not interested in that particular specialty in nutrition, treat your preceptor with respect; it takes effort to be a preceptor. You are representing your internship and yourself. You never know what job opening will be available at the end of the internship, so treat each rotation like a job interview. You have a great opportunity to network with RDs, learn, and check out perspective places for future employment.

Take Notes
Your DI is a time to learn, so write it down. I learn best through repetition and listening. So, I took notes about things I liked, new information, and I kept a list of acronyms and terms to look up later. I learned a ton by listening, identifying my areas of weakness, and looking up terms. I became more familiar with medical terminology and acronyms, which greatly helped me in my clinical job and helped improve my communicate with doctors.

Review MNT and Take "Cheat Sheets"
In my senior medical nutrition therapy class (MNT), we had to create a pocket book of MNT for each disease. It was a ton of work, but it was so helpful to have in the internship. You can't remember everything, so it's helpful to have resources handy. So, review the MNT and information about your next internship rotation before starting the rotation. Make cheat sheets to take with you to jog your memory.
My internship had homework that coordinated with each rotation. I tried my best to finish the homework before the internship. Then if I had questions, I could ask the preceptor or internship director questions I had about MNT from the homework. This was a great way to prepare. By preparing before the rotation, I could better assess what I did know and what information I did not know or needed to learn more about.

Make a "Cheat Sheet"
My internship had fantastic opportunities to shadow and practice. So, I took notes on what my preceptor was asking the patient. Each preceptor has a different way of assessing a patient, so there are many 'right" ways to assess your client's nutritional needs. Also, each disease process requires different MNT. You learn a ton from school (aka "book smarts"), but I would argue that there is nothing that can compare to hands-on learning from an expert in the field (aka your preceptor). 

Did I leave out any of your ideas of how to be a successful intern? If so, leave a comment below and share with your colleagues and future dietetic interns.

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