My RD Journey

From Undergrad -> Internship -> RD -> Private Practice!


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Tips for Running Nutrition Programs

Over the past few years, I have been creating and running nutrition programs. I have done multiple seminars for adults and classes for children. It is often intimidating to stand up in front of everyone and give that expert knowledge of yours. For those of you who run nutrition programs, or are looking to, here are some of the tips I have.

Tip #1: Prepare
This tip is very generally. It means to not only prepare your material ahead of time (definitely don’t wing it), but to also mentally prepare yourself. If you have your content created, reviewed, and ready for presentation, you will be a lot calmer than if you rushed through it last minute and haven’t looked it over.

Tip #2: Dress professionally
First impressions are very important! Your participants will be judging you before you even begin to speak. You want to look the part. I also found that with being younger, people often discredit what I say or don’t take me seriously. Dressing professionally has helped me to be seen as more of an authority figure.

Tip #3: Arrive early
If you have a lot of equipment, I suggest arriving at least 30 minutes before start time. I found it useful to set up all my handouts, extra pens, business cards, etc on a table off to the side of the front of the room. This was a lot better than fumbling around if someone needed another pen or extra paper. Having materials set out makes the class run smoothly. Also, some participants arrive early. This gives you time to chat with them and make them and yourself a bit more comfortable.

Tip #4: Prepare for set-backs
This tip goes hand-in-hand with tip #3. Besides setting up your room and materials, you want to be early in case of problems that arise. Let’s face it, as much as we prepare, something can always go wrong last minute. I recently began working with a projector, which was complicated to find, let alone set-up. I was in one room with all my materials set-up, half the projector, tables and chairs. I had to move all of my materials, tables, and chairs, to another room to use a different computer system. Since I arrived early, and with the help of some awesome employees, I was able to get set-up and start pretty much on time. Preparing for set-backs means you also have to go with the flow when problems arise. Instead of focusing on “why me,” focus on “what can I do to fix this.”

Tip #5: Have confidence in yourself
Believe in yourself and what you are doing! Stand talk, speak clearly, and speak loudly (not yelling though). Think positively about your program or presentation. Trust your knowledge and your abilities.  Greet your participants as they walk in, and if you can, shake their hands. This gesture helps to break that awkward barrier before you start.

Tip #6: It’s okay to not know an answer
One of the things I was worried about most was that I would get hard questions, not know the answers, and I would lose all of my credibility. When you run a nutrition class, yes you will get questions; however, if you know what you are teaching you will be fine. You know more than you think you do. Also, you don’t have to know everything. If you don’t know the answer to a question, give your best response and be honest about not knowing. I have had a lot of questions on new products or studies, some of which I have never heard of. Sometimes, with my science background, I am able to give an educated response. Other times, I have to say “I haven’t read much on the topic of _____, that will be something I will look into more.” If you are seeing the same class again, you could also tell your participant that you could research it and get back to them.

Tip #6: Enjoy what you are presenting
If you teach nutrition, more than likely you are in the field because it is a passion of yours. Bring that passion to your class. If you are excited and passionate about what you are teaching, it will show. This will also help to motivate the people in your class to be more excited about it too.

****These tips can also relate to speeches/presentations in class.

 

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Tips for Finding Dietetic Preceptors

If you decide to go with a distance dietetic internship, you will need to find your own preceptors prior to the application process. Finding preceptors is a very difficult and lengthy process. I would definitely suggest starting early! Not only are there a lot of paperwork and meetings involved; however, you are competing with other possible interns for those positions. Some facilities will only take 1-2 interns per year.

 

Before you begin to search for facilities and preceptors, review your possible internships. Find out what facilities they will allow you to use. The most important factor is your clinical rotation. Most, if not all, internships will want you to have a inpatient clinical facility set before you even apply. They want this because the inpatient clinical rotation usually the hardest rotation to set. For your food service management rotation, internships will want you at a school location, hospital kitchen, or both. Again, this is important to review before you start your search for preceptors.

 

It is always best to contact preceptors via phone call first. I found that with email, I was either getting overlooked or spammed. I often didn’t know who the head person was to email anyway. Also, emails tend to get pushed by the wayside, as compared to phone calls. Prepare a little blurb of what you want to say on the phone prior to calling. I tend to have a mind blank, so it was helpful to have an outline of my name, why I was calling, how long the rotation was, and a callback number. You will be surprised at what you forget after calling a multiple facilities. I first started off with a list of about 60 hospitals. If you were wondering, I called them all…twice…at least. Calling hospitals for an inpatient clinical rotation was quite difficult. I found many facilities: 1. Had contracts with other schools for interns, 2. Had contracts with companies like Aramark and Sodexo and didn’t take other interns, 3. Didn’t have enough dietitians on staff for more than 1 intern, and I was too late for that spot, 4. Never called me back from the 3 voicemails I left. That being said, I did find my needed facilities, it just took a lot of patience.

 

After you get through to a preceptor, they will want to meet you. It is best to be clear, prior to any meeting, what your needs are for the internship. You don’t want to drive all the way out to meet a preceptor and find out that they can’t have you come for the full rotation time. Also, I found that my potential preceptors liked that I sent the internship forms to them prior to the meeting. This gave them a chance to either fill it out beforehand or review it to ask me questions when I was there. Most of this meeting will consist of paperwork, basic interview questions, and a tour of the facility. Dress to impress! Usually, if a preceptor wants to meet you face-to-face, they already are set on having you use their facility as part of your rotation. They need this time to make sure they understand everything that is needed, the time you will be there, forms you and they will have to fill out, etc. They also want to make sure you are not crazy 🙂

 

Don’t give up on finding preceptors! If you really get stuck, head to the yellow pages! Also, some internships will give you suggestions on facilities prior interns had used. (This is usually a last resort). Lastly, be persistent but not pushy. You may need to call a facility more than once. Just be sure to give them a week to get back to you before you call again. Preceptors are already very busy, so be respectful of their time.

 

As always, good luck!


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Tips for Applying to Dietetic Internships

If you are interested in going the internship/RD route right after college, here are a few tips to help you guide you through that horrible process. 

Personal Statement
Your personal statement is one of the most important things that internships look at. This is the piece of yourself that they get to see before interviewing you. Internships have changed a bit. Instead of just hearing your life story and how you got into dietetics, they also want to see leadership skills and professional experiences. The internships you apply to will have a section on their website that lists the questions you will need to include in your personal statement. My advice is to start with a short blurb (no more than a paragraph) about yourself, how you got into dietetics, etc. Then, continue by answering the questions asked and really highlighting your accomplishments in dietetics. Start early on your statement. It might take a while to figure out what you want to write about. Also, get as many people as you can to proofread it!
 
DICAS
This is the system you will use to upload all documents for each internship you are applying to. This includes: resume, personal statement, transcripts, references, additional application materials, etc. DICAS has a lot of help on their website (I definitely got good use out of that). There is a certain date when DICAS will open for each internship round, so keep track of that date. 
 
D&D Digital Matching
This is the best part of the internship! Not! D&D is a system where you rank all of your internship choices IN THE ORDER THAT YOU WANT THEM. That last part is very important. There was a lot of confusion when I was applying over whether or not you ranked the internships in terms of which one you thought you had the best chance of getting. That is not the case. If you want to be double sure, you can always call D&D. They are very nice and used to dealing with crazy dietetic students. 
 
Basically how it works is you rank your internships from 1-5 (or however many you have). Let’s say your first choice is Aramark. You think it is kind of a stretch, but you apply anyway. You’re second choice is maybe an internship you know you could get (Marywood University). When matching day comes, if you got Aramark, you will be notified that you did. If you didn’t get Aramark, but your second choice (Marywood) listed you as an intern, you will get that one. If you had also gotten your 3rd, 4th, and 5th internship, you will not know. It stops at the internship, based on how you ranked them. 
 
How Many to Apply To
Dietetic internships are very competitive and down right stressful to apply for. I always tell people it was worse than if you applied to grad school. So, that being said, you really don`t want to go through this process more than once. 
 
I applied to 7 internships. 2 were places that I wanted, but were a stretch for me. 3 were ones I was pretty sure I had, but couldn`t be positive. 2 were places I knew I would get but didn’t really want (safety schools). On-site programs in your area are often hard to get into (require high GPA and a lot of experience) and tons of people, all very qualified, apply. Distance programs often require a lower GPA but still experience. Coordinated programs often have the lowest GPA requirement and experience. Know yourself and your abilities before picking your internships. 
 
There are many factors to consider when looking at internships. There were a few programs that I thought were equal in how they were structured. I then ranked those schools based on how much their tuition was. It is quite costly to apply to internships. D&D, DICAS, and your internship programs all have separate fees. Total, I would factor in about $300. Between 4 and 7 programs is a good range. 
 
Final Tips
Spend time looking at internship programs and their admission requirements early. Some programs offer more community experience, so if you are interested in community work, check them out. Some programs have longer in-patient experiences. Get a binder of your internship materials started early. Start working on your references and your personal statement. If you get prepared early, you will be less stressed out when the application time comes.


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Tips for Incoming Nutrition/Dietetic Undergrad Students

There were many moments in my dietetics undergrad career that were prefaced with”I wished someone had told me that.” From classes to work experience to joining clubs, I found a lot of information given to me was both helpful and downright useless. Hopefully, my experience as a dietetics undergrad student will help you as you begin (or continue) yours!

Class Scheduling
As an dietetics undergrad student, you will be taking classes like Anatomy/Physiology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, and core nutrition classes. Although you have certain pre-requisites for classes, I would not suggest taking ORGANIC CHEMISTRY WITH ANATOMY or taking BIOCHEMISTRY WITH ANATOMY 2. Those were the worst 2 semesters of my college career. Anatomy 1 is mostly memorizing information and Anatomy 2 is applying everything you memorized. Throw those classes in with any type of chemistry and you will surely fry your brain. There were many dietetics students that had no problem with taking these classes in 1 semester. I, however, struggled with a horrible teacher and a lack of understanding of chemistry to begin with. I found myself ordering “Organic Chemistry Demystified” off of Amazon and attempting to teach myself.

If you find yourself in this situation, YouTube has online lectures that are helpful and the simplified books off Amazon help to breakdown the scientific blubber. Another option is to take Anatomy at a community college and transfer the credits to your university.  I hear it is much easier. You could also take Anatomy or Chemistry over the summer to lessen your course load. These classes are very important for internship opportunities later on. Internships will ask you for your DPD GPA (GPA from all nutrition classes) and science GPA. A tip for taking Anatomy 1: you will be doing practicals in lab where you get bones or muscles and have to name them. What I found to be useful was to take pictures of the bones/muscles in lab and study from the picture instead of the book. In my lab, the models in class were used on the practicals. It made studying much easier. (This I figured out my last practical unfortunately). Lastly, don’t feel bad about having to retake any of the science classes! I retook Anatomy and got a full grade higher the second time around. I also understood the material much better. Many people don’t fail (like I did) and retake the class just to have a better grade on their transcripts.

Dietetics Experience
If you don’t have a job in the dietetics field already, get one! Get yourself in at a hospital or long-term care facility as a diet or food/nutrition aide. The pay is pretty good and you really need the experience in the long run. Other options are to shadow a Dietitian, work/volunteer at WIC, or volunteer at a dialysis clinic. Not only good for experience, but also good for networking. Getting experience is vital for when you apply for internships or grad school.

My internship needed a minimum of 1040 hours of dietetics related volunteer or paid experience. This may sound like a lot, but if you were to work 20 hours a week for a year, you would meet the requirement. I worked for 4.5 years as a food and nutrition aide at a hospital. I worked for 8 years at the YMCA; however, only 2 of those years were dietetics related. (I taught nutrition programs). Getting experience also helps you to figure out what you want to do with your career. I discovered I hated working in a hospital. People didn’t want my help. They just wanted to eat bacon and go home. I found that I loved working with kids and families where I could create my own program and pilot it to the members. By volunteering/working in different fields of nutrition, you will discover what your niche will be.

College Involvement
Get involved at school! One club to get involved with is Student Dietetic Association (or whatever your college calls the nutrition club). Some SDA clubs just let you join without any stipulations. My university was much more strict. We needed 20 hours to get inducted, then we had to keep up with 10 hours to stay a member. Adding up hours was very complicated. If you did an all day event (which were only on the weekends) you would only get 3 hours max. But selling 20 cookies was worth a half hour. Let’s just say I was inducted, then on probation for my last year 🙂

I worked 2 jobs in college (both on the weekends). I lived at school but commuted back and forth for work. It was hard for me to keep up with the hours needed for the SDA club. Your university may be different and a lot more relaxed. SDA does offer a lot of information regarding the dietetics profession and tips for internships, so it is a good resource.

If you are involved with more than one club, I would suggest getting involved enough to gain a leadership position. I was Public Relations Officer for Habitat for Humanity my sophomore year and President my junior and senior year. Not only did this look good for my resume, but it also taught me a lot about how an organization should be run, time-management, patience, conflict resolution, and much more. I also got much better at public speaking. All of these qualities can be used in other aspects of your life. They are also important qualities for internship candidates.