My generation of RDNs has been issued a challenge: guide the future of our profession by taking on roles as preceptors and mentors. We all know there are not enough dietetic internship positions for every qualified prospective candidate. Because of the growing field of dietetics, mentorship has become our responsibility — and rightfully so. If you've answered the call, do more than teach your mentee what you know and really prepare them for a future as a dietitian.
Do not be afraid to challenge your mentee with hard questions. Provide them with real-life scenarios where they have to use critical thinking skills to determine the best route of action. Sure, your mentee knows medical nutrition therapy for Type 2 diabetes, but do they know how to apply this to someone with kidney failure or heart failure? What about someone undergoing chemotherapy who is malnourished? Reinforce education about laboratory value assessment, fluid restrictions and conducting a basic nutrition-focused physical assessment. Difficult situations happen and the typical patient is complex; the future dietitian needs to know what to do before having their RDN credential.
Edit Their Resumes
Anyone who has mentored has seen resumes with multiple pages, uneven margins, foodservice jobs from high school and inappropriate fonts. Ask every student or mentee you come across to send you their resumes. Edit it and provide feedback. Did they send it to you as a Word document or PDF? Teach your mentees how to produce professional resumes as well as how to present it to prospective employers. Not every resume needs to look the same, but they should be "job-ready" before the dietetic internship is over.
Show Them the Way
Talk with your mentees about their desired future career path. If they are offered a job they are unsure about taking, give them counsel. Will this position reinforce their internship, education and degree qualifications? Provide suggestions and ample feedback to your mentees on ways to achieve their goals.
My mentor once gave me two pieces of advice: "Have a mentor" and "Find the dietitian you want to be." She explained: "The mentor is someone you can vent to, learn from and cry on their shoulder. The dietitian you want to be is the person who exemplifies the skills you feel match your style as a dietitian the closest." This could not have been better advice. Our job as mentors is to make our mentees think in ways they never have before, but also to be empathetic and encouraging.
Remember, we were all once (and likely still are) mentees. Every mentor-mentee relationship might not be life-long, but we can build a foundation of trust and rapport by actively listening, showing kindness and being considerate of our mentees' feelings. A good mentor is not tough for the sake of being strict, but does it to help his or her mentees grow and prosper into the future leaders of our profession.