The Dietetic Internship: How to Embrace Constructive Criticism and Stay Positive

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There’s nothing quite like a dietetic internship, and while some of the most rewarding moments of your life occur during those hard-working months, there also are times when you seriously question your decision to become an RDN. The stress and discomfort of receiving criticism about your performance during the course of your internship can make it difficult to be confident about choosing a career path as an RDN. Don’t worry, you are not alone! As dietetics is a field that is dominated by individuals with Type A personalities who have high standards for themselves, positively receiving criticism can be a challenge for many of us. As much as you want to pretend that pointed feedback on some of your weaker skills doesn’t affect you, in reality, it is likely that at some point in your dietetic internship you may be offended by what another professional says to you. Here are some tips for how to handle constructive criticism with grace.

Don’t Ignore Feedback

Truly listen to what preceptors or supervisors have to say. Learning to accept and embrace constructive criticism as it comes is something that not only will help you in the moment, but also will help you develop yourself personally and professionally. Criticism is not meant to hurt you, but rather it is meant to help you become the best dietitian you can be.  Jot down things preceptors and supervisors say you need to work on. This will keep you focused on the conversation and will help you to remember what areas you can improve.

Keep an Open Mind and Stay Positive

It is likely that you will not enjoy every rotation and every preceptor during the course of your internship. Keeping an open mind and staying positive can help you handle those situations and even thrive while doing so. Situations we perceive as negative often are the best time to learn! A lot can be said about a person’s character by how they handle challenging situations. When you feel your mind trending toward negative thinking, remind yourself that no one is perfect and all you can put forth is your best effort in any given situation.

Additionally, search for silver linings when coping with a stern preceptor or a challenging rotation. If you can reframe your perspective to see how working with this preceptor is teaching you how to work with those who have different personalities, or that the complexity of your renal rotation is teaching you better time management, you can show up each day with a more open and positive mindset. Embrace those situations, use them as learning experiences, and you will grow into a well-rounded professional.

In a perfect world, we would do everything flawlessly in our rotations and excel in all fields, from patient care to food safety. The reality is that the internship is a time to make mistakes, receive feedback and learn as much as you can before you go out into the world as an entry-level dietitian. I encourage you to embrace these moments and use the feedback as a tool to grow. Your future professional self will thank you for it.

Chelsey George
Chelsey George earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Bradley University. She is currently completing her dietetic internship program at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital.