April is National Preceptor Month! Preceptors make a difference in the lives of students who are learning to become registered dietitian nutritionists or dietetic technicians, registered by acting as mentors and training the dietetic professionals of the future. Learn how to get involved in the future of the profession.
“Knowledge is the food of the soul.” – Aristotle
Knowledge not only helps us fuel our day, it also enriches our lives. Dietitians know this to be true — but we also know that knowledge comes from more than just textbooks. In our everyday ventures with patients, we also need to know bedside manner, motivational interviewing skills and how to roll with the punches. While my classroom education was great, being an intern and applying that education is what really made it stick.
Five years after graduating, I have come full circle. I was once the intern; today, I have mentored more than 10 students (both graduate and dietetic interns), written two DI recommendation letters and served as a reference for countless job applications. One of my proudest moments was when my first dietetic intern was elected local dietetic association’s president-elect!
One of the things that my preceptors at the Medical University of South Carolina taught me was the importance of being a preceptor for others in the field. My favorite internship rotation was in dialysis because I loved counseling based off of lab markers. This eventually translated into me accepting a job at a comprehensive lipid testing company, counseling patients based off of labs. This goes to show: A preceptor could find herself thinking today is just another day at work, but at that same moment a dietetic intern could be in the middle of realizing what she wants to do for the rest of her life.
Today, I precept for students at the South Carolina DHEC internship and Winthrop University, and also accept graduate students looking for dietetics field experience. Though some believe that taking on a dietetic intern just means added stress, I find it to be an enriching experience. Interns have a new passion for the dietetics field, and I have wonderful discussions with them after counseling patients, using these “teachable moments” to enlighten them on a career in outpatient dietetics counseling. My interns also assist me with conducting group classes, writing newsletters and managing our corporate social media accounts.
This quote from one of my recent interns highlights my philosophy: “This rotation was one of the most relevant dietetic opportunities I have experienced, and I hope to provide a similar experience to students interested in dietetics when I am an RD.” The fact that giving just one or two weeks of my time to students can encourage them to give back to our field gives me confidence that being a preceptor is the right thing for me.
Dietetic interns have a wealth of knowledge, skills and enthusiasm for a healthy lifestyle. It’s our job to help them shine.