What I Wish I knew Before my Dietetics Internship.
It is well noted and appreciated by many that experience is the best teacher. However,the wise and best thing in life is to learn from the experience of others. Trust me, some mistakes are not worth the experience.
I am optimistic of the future of dietetics and appreciate greatly how lecturers, preceptors and dietitians are inspiring the next generation of dietitians and nutrition leaders.
If you are reading this, I know you are about graduating or you have graduated and now awaiting your dietetics internship placement.
The last one year of my education as a dietitian (dietetics internship) was a great learning curve and a reality check for me. One of the beautiful things of community is to pay it forward by sharing what you have learnt and help others follow their passions, even if it is not limited to the confines of the dietetics profession.
There are somethings that we would never get to learn in the four walls of a classroom. You have to experience it to learn a lesson or two . That is life.
With this article I would share some insights and thoughts of what I wish I knew before my dietetics internship, some of which I curated from other dietitians around the globe.
10 Dietetics Internship Survival Tips
1.We are a small community : The field of nutrition and dietetics is a very small village. Do your possible best to always be kind and appreciative of your lecturers , preceptors and colleagues .
Be appreciative of the little sacrifices your colleagues make for you and thank them whenever you feel the need to do so. Remember, your future colleagues are your classmates and interns. Do not speak negatively or throw shades at your colleagues or other dietitians. The dreadful thing one would ever dream of doing is to start an internship with a strife between you and your fellow intern , lecturer or preceptor. Remember, you would need them for a recommendation some day. Never burn your own bridges!
2. The real learning just got started: Don’t get me wrong. The basic principles of the biochemistry , physiology , anatomy and medical nutrition therapy courses you took in school would come in handy. You would learn something new everyday. Always read something new or immerse yourself to know what the hot topics are to stay abreast of current research and media trends.You need to stay knowledgeable. Don’t be shy to ask questions if you have any doubt. That is the whole purpose of the internship. You are there to learn. However, you must have done you own research / learning before you bombard your preceptor with questions. The answers to your question maybe just a click away.
3. Make use of online resources : There is no need reinventing the wheel. Information provided by credible online resources make life more easier and allows you more time to focus on things that are urgent and important. Sources such as dietitian connection, todaysdietitian, eatright.org and drugs.com were among some of my go to resources for information.
4. Volunteer and Network : Taking the initiative to volunteer offers you great learning experiences.
It also brings you into contact with other dietitians ,thus providing a favourable environment to network with other dietitians. Your network should not be limited to only dietitians. You would come across a lot of people in your facility, some may be nurses , doctors , physiotherapist , diet cooks etc. You may want form long lasting relationships that may blossom into a job opportunity after your internship or be meaningful for career advancement. Go to places where there are other dietitians. Examples of such places include conferences, symposium and workshops such as CPDs , FNCE, ICD Conference and other professional Association meetings in your state or region. Take the initiative to seek out volunteer positions and be intentional about building contacts with likeminded professionals. These possible contacts can offer you a job , write a recommendation and even provide mentorship.
5.Plan for your internship : As the saying goes , “ if you fail to plan , you plan to fail”. Remember that opportunity favours the prepared mind. As part of planning for your internship you would have to have a post internship plan.
Do you look forward to land a job right after your internship? You can start researching about the facility where you are working as an intern to see if there would be any likelihood of you been employed after your internship or research about other facilities.
Do you desire to pursue graduate studies immediately after your internship? Maybe clinical dietetics is not your thing , you have passion for research or business. Know the requirements and work towards it. For graduates studies, GRE or IELTS may be required for your school . Scholarships are a great way to get your postgraduate studies paid for without having to pay it back.You must be on the lookout for scholarship opportunities and also discuss it with your professors. They would be of great help.
6.Stay True to yourself: You are the only person who knows what sets you on fire. Amidst the noise and clutter it is advisable to find your own true voice. Never imitate anyone, be authentic and your uniqueness would eventually come to being. Building a personal brand is key, even as a dietetic intern. So you know, everyone has a personal brand even if they choose not to build one. Dietetics is a profession that is capable of transforming into a passion. Know what you want and go for it.The paths that we can take to achieve a lifetime of fulfillment are boundless, so long as you listen to yourself and hone in on what it is that you want to achieve.
7. Stay Professional : “Being a professional member and being perceived as a professional are two different things. Professionalism takes a lifelong commitment to competency, excellence, honorable values, standards, ethics, upright character, determination, service mentality, and even a touch of class.” Sylvia Escott-Stump ,MA,RD,FADA,LDN : 86th President ,ADA Journal. You are a professional and you must behave as such. Professionalism take a lifetime commitment and it starts from your internship. First impression counts and your actions and inaction can make someone create lasting impression about you as a dietitian. Dress well and wear a smile always.Whenever and wherever you find yourself as a dietetic intern be professional and leave a good impression.
8. Bad Days are Inevitable: To be honest with you. The dietetics internship period is one stressful period that comes with a lot of highs and lows. The stress from work and the fear of the unknown can get you emotional sometimes. Do not mix your emotional life with your professional life. Never go to work with the anger from yesterday’s encounter with your parent or your boyfriend. Prepare for the bad days. You know the feeling when a patient on Nutrition Support recovers and is discharged. Yes! That is the joy of teamwork. Prepare for those days when you would have to go home late or work for longer hours just so you attend to the health needs of a client / patient.
9. Follow Instructions : As a dietetic intern you work under the supervision of your preceptor (dietitian). Never undertake any action without the knowledge of your supervisor. Learn to work within the confines of your expertise as an intern.
10. Be Open Minded : Never buy into the myth that clinical nutrition is the only area where dietitians can be employed. The dietetics profession has evolved over the years and there are a lot more emerging areas of dietetics practice that you can explore. Knowing what you want as a dietitian can help you in leveraging on your nutrition credentials alongside your passion . There are boundless passport of dietetics opportunities out there. There is really no linear path in the dietetics profession. Identify an area that feeds into your passion and gain the requisite skills.
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