My RD Journey

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


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Top 10 Tips for a Successful Dietetic Intern

I am going to switch gears for a bit from my usual Dietitian-related tips to a focus on dietetic internships. I have been a preceptor for the last 2.5 years and it has been awesome. I would highly suggest any professional to take on an intern at some point in their career. It is such an eye-opening experience when you are teaching and basically helping to mold someone into their profession.

Over the last month, I have had a lot of interns reach out to me to be their preceptor for 2017-2018 dietetic internships. Only a small handful I ended up meeting with and agreeing to become their preceptor. In the process, I had a few asking what the qualities are of a “good” intern. While I hate using the word “good,” I do like thinking in terms of success. The top 10 list I complied below is a blend of tips from my own experience as being a preceptor plus what I observed during my internship (way back when).

Tip #1 – Show up on Time
This is an absolute must. There is nothing more off-putting than a late intern. Get up earlier and never assume traffic will be great (especially if you have a long drive). My practice is super busy and I am usually on a time crunch, especially if running a class that day, so tardiness just won’t cut it for me. If you do happen to be running late for some reason, always contact your preceptor. Let them know why you are running behind and your estimated time of arrival.

Tip #2 – Always Dress to Impress
I am sure you have heard this one a lot, but take it seriously. I have had interns show up for meetings with me in jeans (and not nice looking ones)! It is way better to be overdressed for a meeting. For your actual rotations, always contact your preceptor and find out the dress code. For my practice, there are days where we need to get dressy for classes or seeing clients. Other days, I am just working out of my home so there is no sense in getting all dolled up to just sit around and work.

Tip #3 – Come Prepared 
One of my biggest pet peeves is when an intern shows up with absolutely no work to do, no outlines or class assignments printed (or available on their computer), or nothing to do for downtime. Whether you are heading in for an initial interview with a potential preceptor or your first day on-site be PREPARED! Have an idea of what your rotation entails. What assignments do you need to accomplish? What tasks need to be done? Don’t assume your preceptor will have that information. Set aside time to speak with them to review everything. Also, make sure you have something to do when there is downtime. This could be reading journals, working on assignments, or studying for your RD exam. Again, this is a good time to ask your preceptor what the expectation is. Do they want you to be working on something for them? Do they want you to work on assignments? Lastly, don’t sit on your phone while you wait. Honestly, that makes me think you don’t take nutrition or the rotation seriously enough.

Tip #4 – Engage and Ask Questions
I always have interns tell me they don’t want to bother me with questions. I love questions and to me, this means you are excited and passionate about nutrition. One thing about questions is to time them correctly. If your preceptor is in the middle of a call or email, that might not be the best time to ask a question. Again, find out what they prefer for this too. I had preceptors who would tell me to interrupt them with anything. I had others that told me if they are busy to let them be. Asking questions about something is not a sign of weakness at all, instead it shows me that you are willing to learn, grow, and challenge yourself. If anyone ever gives you heat for asking questions, apologize maybe for your timing, but never, ever, apologize for your curiosity and desire to learn.

Tip #5 – Be Organized
For anyone that knows me personally, they know I am highly organized. My expectation for organizational skills is probably much higher than most professionals; however, it is for good reasons. My practice involves just me. I do all the scheduling, client-seeing, billing, follow-ups, emails, etc. I need to be organized to make sure everything gets done in a timely (and good quality) manner. While I don’t expect my interns to be like me, having some sense of organization will really suit you well.

Tip #6 – Give Good Quality Work
If your preceptor gives you an assignment or task to work on, take it seriously and take your time to produce good quality work. Don’t just slap something together to get it done. Do the research, invest the time, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Tip #7 – Respond to Emails (Professionally)
As I mentioned earlier in the post, I have had a lot of interns reach out to me as a preceptor in the last month, yet I only interviewed a few for my practice. A lot of this was due to that first impression I received via email. Frantic and desperate emails were red flags for me. I questioned if they prepared at all for the internship (i.e. finding preceptors). Again, are you taking this seriously? This makes me think about lack of organizational skills. Also, if students reached out for a clinical rotation with me or with incorrect information about my practice, another red flag went up. Obviously, you did not do your research very thoroughly, so this makes me think that attentiveness to detail is not a strong suit. I have also had potential interns reach out to me, interview with me, not get matched and never let me know (though they said they would). While this doesn’t seem like a big deal, I spent the time setting up an interview with you, filling out paperwork and blocking your rotations in my calendar. At least have the decency to let me know if you will actually be coming. I had these same students reach back out again later when they did get an internship and needless to say, I was hesitant to work with them. While some of my perceptions could be totally off from the actual reality of the situation, that first impression is everything for me in choosing an intern that will work well in my practice. After all, this is my business and I rely on it for my income.

Tip #8 – Be Aware of Preceptor’s Time (Assignments)
Your preceptors are taking the time to work with you during your internship, so as much as you can make that process easier for them, the better. This means being on-top of your assignments and tasks, which goes along with being organized. Plan out when you will do your assignments and don’t wait until the last minute and then expect your preceptor to work it all out for you.

Tip #9 – Be Open to Learning
You might not love every rotation and you might already have an idea of which area of dietetics you want to go into. This doesn’t mean you should just do the bare minimum for your other rotations. Even if you know clinical is not for you, engage and ask questions. You never know when you might find a new passion or learning something exciting.

Tip #10 – Be Open to Feedback 
One of the most important pieces of any profession is getting and giving feedback. Feedback is crucial since it can help to shape you into a better professional. Always be open to getting feedback from your preceptor, even if it is negative. After such, do something about it! If your organization is slacking, how can you improve? Get used to giving feedback as well. Don’t just say everything is great when it isn’t. You can always attempt to improve a situation (or work environment) by giving constructive feedback. Are you frustrated with the lack of time your preceptor is giving you for questions? Are you not learning enough from them? See if you can compromise or come up with a solution that will work for the both of you. I always say that the worst that can happen is someone says, “no” but at least you know that you tried.

I hope this list helps any current or potential interns out there to enhance their experience in the dietetic internship. Good luck to everyone beginning their internships and leave a comment to let me know how yours is going!

For more tips on Preparing for Your Internship, check out the BLOG 

For more information on joining the AND Preceptor Database, click the LINK.

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End of FSM Rotation

 

Last week, I finished my first rotation of my dietetic internship (Foodservice management and school nutrition education)! It felt like the 13 weeks flew by!

 

Some of the things I did during my rotation included:

-Menu planning: created a 6-week cycle menu for the school district; input menu items into PrimeroEdge system (similar to that of NutriKids); assigned menus for the district; created new recipes (and taste tested them); ran nutrient analysis of the menu items to ensure that they met the guidelines for SLP.

-Kitchen work: observed/participated in ordering, inventory, serving, food prep, temperature/sanitation check, etc.

-Lesson planning: taught a 3-day lesson for 6th grade students; taught a fitness/nutrition lesson for 1st and 2nd graders; in-service for staff members.

-Research project: I created a new chickpea salad, had it taste-tested, and put it on the menu. I was trying to determine if increasing student involvement in the planning of new items and implementing the changes they made, would increase consumption.

-Miscellaneous work: answered phone calls in the office; organized nutrition materials, made posters for events, etc.

 

Things I learned throughout my rotation:

1. Always, always, always ask questions! Sometimes, I felt like I was bothering people asking them; however, everyone was really friendly and there to help. The internship is to help you learn more about nutrition, so asking questions about things you are not sure of is needed.

2. Be confident in what you know and how you speak about it. If you sound unsure, people won’t trust what you say. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you know more than you think!

3. Before a food service rotation (in a school district), brush up on food safety, the school lunch program, and food science (I definitely didn’t study much on food science until I realized I needed to know some for my rotation).

4. Nurses would call a lot about carbohydrate counts for menu items in order to give insulin to the kids with diabetes. If you find yourself answering these types of questions be sure to have menu nutritionals on hand (I found nurses to be calling last minute and frantic).

5. Get as many resources as you can from the RD or FS manager. My RD had a SafeServ book, Inman’s Review, and miscellaneous lesson/training binders, which will all be helpful in studying for the RD exam. She also mentioned she only used Inman’s Review for the RD exam and passed the first time.

6. Take the initiative on projects and tasks whenever you can. Not only will this give you great experience, but, it will also show the staff you are committed and a team player. Even doing small tasks without complaint are noticed.

7. If you find downtime in your rotation, read food service related materials (I found this to be helpful when taking my comprehensive exam) and/or ask what else you could be doing to help.

8. Be flexible! Things will not always go to plan. Just roll with the punches and do what you can to make the situation run smoothly.

9. Accept the changes that happen. This kind of goes along with number 8. One day you may have planned to do x, y, and z; however, you may get something new thrown your way. An employee (or 5) might call out, and you need to help in the kitchen. A truck may have broken down and you need to drive the manager around. Anything can change in foodservice! (By the way, these things have all happened in my rotation).

10. Be ahead/aware of all your assignments/tasks. You never know when something will come up that relates to an assignment. It really helps to have your assignment sheet on hand.

 

Overall, I had an amazing rotation. It was stressful at some points; however, in the end, I wouldn’t have changed anything. I really feel like I developed/fine tuned my leadership and interpersonal skills.

 

Hopefully, my experiences will help you in preparing/finishing your food service rotations!

 


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Food Service Management Rotation: Tips and Information

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!

 


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My First Week of My FSM Rotation

This past week, I completed my first 5 days of my food service management rotation. Overall, I think the rotation went pretty well. I attended a lot of meetings and in-service trainings, so I was able to meet most of the staff that I would be seeing throughout my rotation. It was very interesting to see the dynamic among the food service workers in the schools. A lot of the employees had strong bonds and cliches with other employees of their specific school. I could see the vast amount of support both the food service workers and managers had for one another. That is something I will come to appreciate even more throughout my tougher weeks of my internship.

I found myself having a lot of time to work on assignments and plan/prepare upcoming projects and studies. It was definitely helpful for me to bring my laptop, assignment binder, and resources to pull ideas from.

Before leaving for the weekend, I received some unexpected news from my preceptor and the general manager. I was super nervous before the 3 of us sat down for the meeting. My preceptor had said, 15 minutes before, that her and the boss needed to speak with me about something. I don’t know about anyone else, but, my immediate thought was, “Uh-oh, what did I do?” After stopping my train of negative, rash thoughts, I reminded myself that it was my first week, and it was probably something un-related to me.

Much to my surprise, I was informed that my preceptor would be leaving that next Friday to join the Navy as an RD! While this was very exciting news for her, I was a little worried about the rest of my rotation. Who would become my preceptor? Did they know all of the work involved? Would I be able to complete everything that was required of me?

Again, once I calmed myself from my racing thoughts, I came to realize that I could do this. It was just another bump in the road. Plus, I not only had the support of the management team and staff; however, I also had the support of my internship director and fellow interns.  Having an RD for food service management wasn’t a requirement for my program, so I was lucky enough to have one as my preceptor. It was decided that the general manager would be taking over the position as my preceptor. He is quite knowledgable and understands that I have a lot of different assignments required of me.

My current preceptor and I sat down this week to plan out all of the school nutrition assignments and set up meetings with who I needed to speak with. My preceptor is much more informed on not only general nutrition, but also nutrition education in schools. That being said, her and I worked together so that she could continue to be a resource to me for the last week of her working there.

Next week will definitely be a change with the school year up and going. Not only will management be down a staff member, but I will be working with a new preceptor. This situation reminds me of something that my internship director had said to me. It went something like “You can plan out what you want to do for food service and how you want your assignments to go; however, there will be some days that everything will just go completely off plan. You need to be ready to deal with whatever is there and be flexible.” That statement has never been so true!

On a final note, I received an official badge from the school district I am working in. Under my name it says “Support Staff.” Boy, do I feel important :):)


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The First Day at My FSM Rotation

Today officially marks the start of my rotations! I started my dietetic internship in Food Service Management at an elementary school. The food service company I am working with has a contract with the whole district, which includes 16 different schools from grades K-12. I was lucky to begin in FSM before the school year started. I felt as though I was able to ease into the rotation, rather than just being thrown in mid-stream.

Going into my first day, I was pretty nervous. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the managers, schedule, or workload. (Just a side note, I was so worried about being late that I got to my rotation site an hour early. My preceptor had a good laugh about that one. :)) Everyone I worked with today, my preceptor and additional staff members, were really great. My preceptor lead me on a tour of the school, gave me little tips about the co-workers and what to expect on a daily basis, and allowed me to ask as many questions as I needed. She also had tons of resources in her office for me to refer to when I worked on assignments.

I really felt that it was helpful to have all my assignments printed out for quick reference. A lot of times when my preceptor was talking, she would touch on a topic that related to an assignment I had. My director had suggested that I sit down with my preceptor in the first week to review the assignments and get a plan together on how to tackle them. Today, my preceptor and I worked through my assignment list very thoroughly. This really helped us both to understand all the assignments better and bounce ideas off of one another. My preceptor was open to any ideas that I had, which helped me feel more comfortable about what I was doing.

One of the major topics for today was the school lunch program. With all of the new guidelines in place for the school year, my preceptor has to work to update the menus to fit all nutritional requirements. I had reviewed the school lunch program prior to starting; however, it was very helpful to go in depth with my preceptor. I was able to look at menu templates and the programs they used for their schools.  I had a little bit of down time (expect that when you begin your FSM rotation), so I was able to get working on my school lunch menu planning assignment. Planning a school lunch menu with all of the new guidelines is a lot more complicated than I thought. It helps to have charts printed out of all the grade group requirements and food component regulations for quick reference.

I was surprised at how many phone calls the office received when I was there today. It seemed as though the phone never stopped ringing with parents asking questions about the school lunch program, new employees asking about trainings, and potential employees calling about positions and job offers. With the students starting next week, a lot of food ordering had to get placed today too. I expect that I will be a lot busier once next week rolls around.

Overall, today was quite a success. Over the next few days, I will be meeting the principals, managers, and employees from other schools in the districts at the meetings and trainings they have scheduled. I am very excited to continue my journey to RD status!

I now leave you with my “laughable moment of the day”:
I packed a lunch and some snacks for today which consisted of: carrots, celery, dressing, chickpeas with ranch, 1/2 sandwich with natural peanut butter and nutella, turkey jerky (made in my dehydrator), an apple, raw cashews, and 2 rice cakes. Now, I don’t know about you, but besides the sandwich and jerky, I picked some noisy food. Let’s set the scene. While the phone does ring a lot, when it doesn’t ring, the office is dead silent. So, lunch rolls around and I break out my sandwich and my veggies. Starting with my quiet food first, I have no problems.  I then move onto my carrots and celery sticks, which are not very quiet foods. I begin laughing because all I can hear is the obsessive crunch when I bit into my food. Let’s face it, there is no quiet way to eat celery and carrots. Anyway, I don’t think anyone else notices, or cares that I am crunching and chomping. I, however, begin to crack up at myself, and proceed to choke on my food. This wasn’t a heimlich maneuver type of choke; however, I had one of those slight panic moments where you suck in too much food with air and do a cough-cough-large swallow. I think tomorrow I will will be packing cucumbers and grapes 🙂


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Preparing for Your First Internship Rotation

In exactly 11 days, I will begin my first dietetic intern rotation in food service management (cue the bells and whistles). I am very excited/nervous to begin my next step in my RD journey. A lot of people in my internship program have already started their rotations. Hearing their positive experiences have really made me antsy to have my own and just get started.

 

With my internship, I also take a certain amount of graduate credits. At first, I thought this would be a ton of work; however, the assignments and lectures are spaced out and prepared very well. Also, with the online format, it is easy to jump on and work for an hour or two, then move on to something else.

 

Some ways I have been preparing for the rotation are: 1. Complete quizzes and lectures supplied by my internship (If your internship does not have these, there are plenty online). 2. Read through my foodservice organizations book. 3. Read through all the assignments I will be completing. 4. Create a semi-timeline of the rotation. 4. Give an overview of assignments to my preceptor (I am in a distance program). I also found it to be helpful to gather all of my rotation materials in one binder so that I can reference assignments or notes with ease. I also read through some of my notes from my food service management classes and quantity food production class that I had in college

 

Besides preparing myself for the work portion, I have been mentally preparing myself for the rest of the program. Not only do I not know my surroundings, but, I also don’t know my preceptors very well, or what their schedules are really like. It is more of preparing myself for the unknown of that first day; accepting what will happen and just going with the flow. There is always that feeling that “maybe I don’t know enough” however, the comments and feedback I have heard from the other interns have really made me excited and know that I can do it. Having the other interns to talk to and share stories with has been such a great addition to my internship. I know that if I need help with assignment I can always turn to the other interns. Also, seeing that some of them struggled with similar assignments has really made me think that I wasn’t the only one to be in that situation.

 

Just some final words of advice to those of you who have either just begun your internship or are waiting to start:

-Don’t feel like you are alone in the process! You will always have the other interns and your directors to turn to for help or guidance.

-Have confidence in yourself and know that you can do it! Trust the knowledge you have. Brush up on some information to boost your confidence.

-Be flexible and go with the flow. As much as you want your first day to go smoothly, know that it will probably be crazy or very different than what you are used to. Embrace the change and accept what is in front of you.

-Prepare your materials ahead of time so that it is one less thing to worry about.

-Get to know your preceptor and supply them with your assignments prior to starting. It will help the process run a bit more smoothly.

-Lastly, share your story with others! It always helps to share your positive experiences with others who are just starting.