My RD Journey

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


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Ask the Dietitian (Student Edition)

Welcome back to My RD Journey! I am finally getting into a groove of teaching and running my business. I am looking forward to the holiday break when I can work on planning some more online packages for my clients. My goal is to have a fully functional online business with products and downloadable content to lighten up my face-to-face service. All in good time.

Over the past week, I moderated two career panels with Dietitians for students at college-level. The students had a lot of great questions and it prompted me to expand more on some of the topics in today’s blog. I have been thinking about doing an, “Ask the Dietitian,” within my blog anyways and I figure that this would be a great topic to start with!

How do you get experience?
For both the dietetic internship (DI) and future jobs, experience is going to be key. For RDs-to-be, you can start with your local hospital. See if you can land a position as a food and nutrition aide in the kitchen. If no-one is hiring, look at volunteer positions. Can you volunteer at a hospital, long-term care facility, food bank, food pantry, soup kitchen, etc? Reach out to local RDs and see if you can shadow them or help on a project (like a class). One really awesome thing that a fellow RD said this past week was that it isn’t necessarily the type of position you get, but the experience YOU gain from it and how that can be related back to dietetics. Let’s say you are a server at a restaurant. You could be gaining customer service skills and food safety knowledge; all of which are critical in dietetics.

How do you deal with the monetary aspect of the DI?
Start saving now! Put away that Birthday money. Put your tips and checks right into the bank. Think twice about spending on frivolous items.  I didn’t realize until my Sophomore year of college that there was a DI AND it was unpaid AND we paid them AND it was after graduation. I worked since I was 14-years-old, and I was used to putting away the money I earned, since my parents were huge on saving (thank you Mom and Dad). Besides saving, look at internships that offer financial aide, scholarships, and/or stipends. Also, do some research into scholarships from the Academy of Nutrition and your state and local groups. From what I hear about these scholarships, they often have minimal students even apply, so your chances are good!

Can you work during the DI?
Going along with the previous question, yes you can work during the DI. A lot of internships will tell you not to do so; however, it really depends on your work ethic and level of time management. I worked weekends during my DI and the occasional weeknight. I know other interns at the time, who could barely keep up with the workload, let alone a side job. If you can handle a job on the side, without sacrificing your learning experience, great. Just remember to be clear with your boss on what the DI entails. Look for positions that are flexible with hours and can accommodate a changing intern schedule. Even if you don’t work during your DI, you still want to make sure you plan your time well to accomplish all of your competencies and assignments.

What are some of the top skills for the DI and career that you feel would lead to success? 
I wrote a blog on this topic a few months back; however, I want to hone in on one really key point, “Never burn a bridge in dietetics.” Really though, the world of dietetics is so small! The dietitian who took my position at my last job before starting my practice full-time had interned with a Dietitian I knew and went to school with. I learned about my current teaching role from an RD I connected with about a year ago and kept in contact with on social media/listservs. I would have never known about the teaching position or maybe even gotten the job had I not been friendly with her. So, even if you don’t think you will need a connection, always keep it open and professional. Save business cards. Follow-up with old preceptors. You never know when you might run into that person again!

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Feel free to post a comment with your question for the Dietitian! I will answer and include in my next “Ask the Dietitian” post! 

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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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Two-Month Private Practice Anniversary

Today official marks the two-month milestone of quitting my full-time job and jumping into a full-time private practice. If you have read my previous blogs, I recently wrote on finding out what success looked like for me and what direction I wanted to take my practice in. While I am still figuring out what my long-term goals are, I know that I am rushing for things to happen, which is not good. It mean it does make sense that I was getting ahead of myself since my practice became my sole income source. I was constantly trying to plan my next move, develop more ideas, create partnerships, and more! I was becoming overwhelmed and ultimately beginning to dislike the position I was in.

I thought back to my previous 3 years of just doing my practice on the side, without much real effort (minus the insurance provider part). During that time, I still gained clients and had opportunities arise. I realized I was stressing myself out over just 2-months of focusing all of my efforts on my business. I thought to myself that I really did a lot more than I was giving myself credit for. I did something scary and challenging by quitting my job in December. I reached out to potential partners and gain two solid ones on top of those I already was working with. I landed a contract for a 6-week class that turned into an additional 7-week class (since the participants were so happy with the program I did). I created and stuck to a more consistent blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram post schedule. I began networking with other Dietitians in my area. I took the chance to run for a position with the Philadelphia Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. I became a blogger for Eat Right PA. The list goes on and on.

You may be reading this thinking to yourself that it may be great I am doing all of these things; however, why should you care. Well, if you are in private practice or are thinking about it you may probably get to the stage that I am in where you wonder if you should be doing more. You may wonder why (constantly) you chose to do something that is scary and unknown most of the time. I challenge you to take a few moments and write out all of the positive things you have done in the last month or even week. Doing so can help you to put in perspective just how much effort you have put into your business. The reason why I do this despite all of the doubts I have is that it is so rewarding to have success in something that you worked so hard for on your own (i.e. without a large company supporting you along the way, especially financially).

While the first two months have been flying by I know that I am doing all the right things and I need to not worry so much about forcing new ideas or opportunities. I know that if I keep doing what I am doing on a daily basis (at the level of quality I am), these opportunities will come, just as they have in the past. Getting overwhelmed is stressful and to be blunt, useless. It paralyzes you and can inhibit your creativity and drive. If I start to get overwhelmed, I journal (which really helps me to see what I have accomplished already), I go for a walk, I make a list, I go to the gym, etc. Taking that time to clear my head gets me back in the game, gets me motivated, and helps me to weed through clutter to make real progress.

So, what are your stressing over that is useless and inhibiting your creativity and drive for success?

Check out my last blog post on “Tackling Your Business Fears”Tackling Business Fears


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Private Practice Tip: Thinking of Your Big Picture

After my last two blog posts, I found myself thinking a lot about where I wanted my practice to be in the next few years. Although I am still working out the details, I finally have a clear picture of what I envision for PorrazzaNutrition. I would HIGHLY recommend anyone reading this, whether you have a private practice or not, to really brainstorm your ideal set-up. Do you want to niche down in a certain area of your field? Do you want this to be a full-time role or just something you will do on the side? Do you want to take insurance? Do you want to have a virtual component? Questions like these can help you to see the big picture and give you a sense of direction.

I hear so many dietitians say to me that they want to have their own practice, but most don’t have a clue as to what they want to do with it. While that may not be a bad thing, I realized, for myself, that having little sense of direction can be paralyzing. We often do nothing when faced with too much unknown. Having that big picture in mind will allow you to focus your efforts towards a path that will help you to reach your goal. I have been asking myself this question a lot –> “Are the things you are doing now, supporting your end goal?” If the answer is yes, I keep investing my time in that area. If the answer is no, I think to myself if this is something I need to stop doing or spending less time on.

Once you have an idea of what you want your practice to entail, think about your action steps. An idea or knowledge is great, but it is what you actually do that matters. Let’s say you want your practice to be able to accept insurance to drive more clientele while first starting out. Some of your action steps may be: 1. Gain an NPI, 2. Gain a Federal Tax ID Number , 3. Fill out a CAQH application, 4. Send in provider inquiries or initial applications for each insurance company, etc. Prioritize your goals! No matter how big your end result (goal) is, make it manageable and less intimidating by breaking it down into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks.

This week, I also made a commitment to myself that I would not buy or read another business-related book until I took action. While these personal/business-development books are really awesome and provide a lot of great information, the information means nothing unless you actually use it. Instead of just taking notes and moving on to the next book, I create actionable steps for the knowledge I gain in any capacity to use either that day, or that week.

For all my readers out there (whether you are dietitians or not), I challenge you to think about your ‘big picture” or “end goal.” What does that really look like and how can you break it down into small and manageable steps? Leave a comment and let me know what YOUR journey looks like.

Check out my first week in Private Practice HERE or my last post about organization HERE


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My First Month – What Does Success Look Like?

It has been just about a month since I decided to leave my full-time job and grow my private practice. This week has been a bit weird for me since it is the first without my intern (aka it is just me…and my cat…all day long). I forgot how much random chit-chat filled the days! Even just driving with someone else and reviewing the morning’s class was something I really missed.

Since we are almost to the New Year, I didn’t have a lot of appointments scheduled for the week and I was being to feel a business slump. I started thinking, “Why are you doing this” and “What were you thinking leaving your full-time job” I mean no business means no paycheck! Once I stopped letting my emotions get the best of me, I realized that it is completely normal to have a slow down during this time (it happened at my previous job). I also realized that I will be “making up” for this in January and February when I had more appointments.

I have been reading “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss this week and one of the biggest things that struck me was actually in the first couple of pages when Ferriss had been asking someone what they thought of when they heard the word “successful.” Success. That was the key that I had been missing and what I needed to think about to change my thoughts into more positive ones. The goal I always wanted was to be in full-time private practice and I had accomplished that 4-weeks ago. Now, I wasn’t sure what my new “success” looked like. Sure, I wanted to build partnerships and gain clientele; however, I wasn’t envisioning my practice in the next month, year, or decade. While I haven’t quite figured out what my vision is for my practice, I know once I determine that that my efforts will feel like they have more purpose and I am not just spinning my wheels so I don’t fail.

What Else I Have Learned

Get ahead when you have downtime – What did I do the past few weeks with limited number of appointments? I followed up on headaches (like insurance calls), planned out my Facebook posts for my page, and set a schedule for myself. I already know that January/February is going to be a lot busier for me than December was, so I planned some of the menial tasks now to get them out of the way.

Track your expenses – I also took some time this month to review my yearly finances. It really helped me to set practical goals once I determined what I needed to make to break even and then what I actually wanted to make. From that, I figured out how many clients I needed to see per month to reach my financial goals.

Google Docs/Drive is awesome – I have been using this for minutes for committees I am in and it is great! I also started tracking my mileage on a Google Drive spreadsheet instead of writing it on paper. I feel like this helps to streamline a lot for me since I can access it on the go.

Nothing is really a disaster – Last week in my cooking class, the building’s power shut off due to a Septa issue and Peco needing to do an emergency shut off to fix something. So, to paint you a picture of this, I am making a soup for class and I have most of the ingredients prepped so I can just dump everything in the pot to cook in time. I also planned on making veggie chips with my mandoline. Oh, and this is 20 minutes before class is supposed to start. I was told to try and talk through the recipe so people felt like they got something out of the class when they arrived. I am pretty good on my feet; however, I was thinking to myself how am I going to take up 1-hour of time talking and not making anything (with no back-up food). What did I do? I made it fun, because what else is there? I told the class to pretend the onions were sizzling and I had them “smell” the lovely blends. You learn a lot about yourself while doing a “cooking” class in partial darkness (only emergency lights). Fast-foward a bit and the power returns mid-way through the class, I speed up the recipe, and everyone got to eat and enjoy the soup/chips. I got so many compliments on how I handled the class in the dark and I felt awesome. So, that was one for the books.

What I am Still Working On

-Not letting work consume me or stress over thinking that I am not doing “enough.”

-Not over planning so much that I don’t actually do anything but plan.

-Figuring out “office hours” (aka what is my cut-off time for answering calls and emails?)

-Spending some time de-stressing with meditation, playing the piano, or exercising.

Hope everyone has a great New Year! I am excited to see what 2017 has in store 🙂

Check out my previous blogs to see why I made the jump to private practice +  Weeks 1 and 3 🙂