After moving to a new city, completing more than 1,200 hours of supervised practice, surviving a case of strep throat and spending weeks studying for the Registration Examination for Dietitians, I can officially say I am an RDN. Here are five things I learned during my dietetic internship.
Be Willing to Try Anything
During a visit to a medical center to learn more about the RDN’s role providing medical nutrition therapy, the center’s RDNs asked for a volunteer so that they could demonstrate how they safely insert feeding tubes. I volunteered. Remember that unique experiences will arise that force you out of your comfort zone and build confidence. Keep an open mind and try new things.
Whether it’s an online calendar, planner, bullet journal, color-coding system or online chat with other interns, find a method that helps you stay organized. This will help you be successful with time management skills because you can visualize and prioritize what you need to accomplish in the weeks and months ahead.
During your internship, you’ll gain hands-on experience in the profession, including areas of clinical dietetics, community nutrition and management of food and nutrition services. There will be bumps in the road and times when you’re so stressed out you feel like quitting. Remember this all will help you be successful. One of the beauties of rotations is that you quickly learn what you like and don’t like in the field. So even if you’re not at your favorite rotation with the best preceptor, you will learn something new each day that will help your personal or professional growth.
Say Thank You
Preceptors volunteer their time and energy to share their expertise. They support and help you achieve the competencies, knowledge and skills you need to become a RDN. Don’t forget to thank your preceptors, your internship director, your peers, the staff at each of your rotations and the wonderful barista making coffee for you at 6 a.m. A small thank-you can go a long way, and bonus points if the note is handwritten.
Have Fun and Practice Self-Care
I know this is technically two things, but I think they go hand in hand for the most important thing I learned. During your internship, you are also trying to find time for house-cleaning, working out, keeping in touch with family and managing a social life. Set aside time each day after rotation and on the weekends when you don’t do anything internship-related. Check out a museum, visit a thrift shop, go to a concert or read a book. There were many days when I was too exhausted to do anything but go for a walk or watch some TV and call it a night. And that’s OK. Self-care always comes first. Do something that makes you happy because when you take care of yourself, everything else falls into place.
This past year was a journey beyond my wildest dreams. It was also the most rewarding — and challenging — nine months of my life. Washington, D.C., the Virginia Tech Internship Program and the dietitians I worked with will forever have a special place in my heart.