This Monday, I will be heading into week 8 of my Food Service Management rotation of my Dietetic internship. It seems as though the time is flying by! I can’t believe I am halfway through my longest rotation of my internship. Things have gotten a little more stressful; however, I found that being able to manage my time efficiently has worked to my benefit.
Throughout the past few weeks, I really had to step up, in terms of leadership and initiative. My old preceptor (an RD) had left to join the Navy. My new preceptor was the General Manager, who had a ton of things to do already. My new preceptor would run errands around the schools in the morning and attend various meetings. This left me alone in the office for the majority of the time. I found myself becoming the RD for the school district. All of the carb counting and menu nutrition questions came to me. I also sat at the RD desk and answered various parent and employee phone calls. Some of the calls were pretty basic (how do I load money on my child’s account) while others required a lot more thought and time (child allergies and special diets).
The school district I am working with uses a program called PrimeroEdge, which is similar to NutriKids, just way more in depth and complicated. This program was where you inputted ingredients, recipes, and cycle menus for the district. It was my duty to create the menus in the system, and assign them to the schools in the district so they could complete their production records. The program is a very useful tool; however, the first few weeks were very difficult, as I was teaching myself how to use it. Once I mastered certain aspects of the program, things ran a lot smoother. One thing I had to consider was the slowness of the program. It is internet-based, so it gets very overloaded at certain times of the day (mid morning and late afternoon). Just adding in 1 ingredient to 1 day often took 5 minutes because of the webpage loading time. I had to plan when I would input and assign menus, so that I would not be using the program at its slow times.
The past few weeks were very stressful; however, the experiences I had strengthened my leadership and conflict negotiation skills. I also got much better at handling employee issues and multi-department management. I had to make a lot of decisions, so it was important to trust my knowledge and use good judgement. Management was very impressed with my work ethic and ability to handle what was thrown at me. I just did what I needed to do because at some times, no one else had the training I had to do it (answering carb or specific nutrient questions). It felt really good when upper management talked about me so highly to other administrative employees. I wasn’t just an intern working there anymore. I had gained a lot more respect than that. When the new RD came in, I found myself training her. It was a very weird feeling for me, the intern, to be training someone in a higher up position, none-the-less, an RD. Much of what I trained her on was office procedures, PrimeroEdge (she had been using NutriKids), kitchen location, etc.
During her first week, the new RD had brought in a lot of materials for me to look through; including her RD test review binder, teaching resources, and a ServSafe training manual. The ServSafe book was a better resource for me than my college food service textbook. It laid out everything in a short and simple format. I would definitely suggest adding this to your resource library. She also brought in a book called “Strengths based Leadership.” I haven’t gotten a chance to read the whole book yet; however, after glancing through a few chapters, it is well worth the read.
Another major portion of my time over the past few weeks was spent on various lesson plans, presentations, and building promotional materials. My next blog will be on the lessons I taught and tips for teaching various age groups.
Tips for FSM Rotation
1. Whether you are in a distance or on-site program, it is really important to plan out your assignments at the beginning of your rotation. Try to knock out the easier assignments/tasks in the beginning. Since I needed my preceptor’s help with scheduling things for other assignments, I tried to do what I could on my own.
2. Give your preceptor an updated assignment list after you have gone through a few weeks. My preceptor needed to be reminded of my assignments on a daily/weekly basis. He was very busy with other duties of his own, so this was pretty typical. It helped to scale down my assignment sheet to things that just dealt with him. It made it easier to work through assignments and get things planned ahead of time.
3. Be flexible! As much as planning is helpful, always be prepared to change up what you are doing. An employee might call about an issue that needs to be handled ASAP; you might have to switch up dates for meetings or presentations. Expect change to happen and roll with it. It will just make everything run a lot smoother.
4. Be able to multi-task. A lot of times I would be working on something (making a poster, writing a lesson) and I would get phone calls, or questions handed to me. Being able to handle multiple tasks, without stressing out, will really help your rotation run smoothly.
5. Work on negotiation and conflict resolution skills. If you haven’t had much training or read a lot on these 2 topics, do so. I found myself researching them a lot as I moved through the leadership portion of my rotation.
Lastly, if you are still working at a job during your internship, kudos to you! If you are thinking about whether or not you should keep your job, know that it is manageable with the internship. I still maintain my position at a YMCA teaching nutrition. I have 7 different classes during the week that I teach. I am lucky, in that I was able to schedule the classes at a certain time that worked best for me. My earliest class starts at 4:45pm. This gives me enough time to get from my internship to the teaching site. While my weeks are very busy, it is manageable with proper scheduling and time management!