As a recent Dietetic Internship graduate, I remember searching the internet for tips and what to expect. Mainly because I am the type of person that likes to know what I am about to get into. As well as, worry about if I am prepared enough to survive. However, with entering a dietetic internship that is not always the case. You might not know where you sites may be or what populations you are working with.
I remember being told that it is okay if you don’t know everything because you learn through your internship experience. This absolutely is the case. But, you also need to put in the work to make sure you understand the concepts taught to be able to complete your work after your internship.
I have put together my top 5 tips that I wished I learned before I started my internship.
1. If you do not understand something, ask.
This is not like your undergraduate classes where you can just ask a classmate later what the professor was talking about. Many preceptors will put you into situations where they believe you are educated on the matter after shadowing once or twice. When you don’t ask a question about a certain topic it is possible that you might provide false information to the patient. That is not something we want to happen, especially with our preceptors watching us. It is better to just avoid that problem and ask your questions. Dietetic internships are a learning process and preceptors expect you to ask questions. No one is perfect, so ask your questions when you have them and learn something new. Odds are when you ask the question, you will remember the conversation when the time comes and someone asks you the same question.
2. Always carry a notebook with you.
No matter what size notebook, it is always great to have something with you. You never know when you are going to learn something new and hope to remember it later. Having a notebook is also helpful when you have a question and it’s not a good time to ask it. By writing it down, you won’t forget to ask it. (How many times do you say you will remember something but you don’t because you didn’t write it down. Happens to me way too many times.) One thing I also did with my notebook was put common medications and information I referenced frequently. Not only did I always have the information handy, I also was able to learn the information faster constantly having it on me. I still have my notebook and reference it when working with clients to help clarify some of my thoughts.
3. Read a new research article at least once a week.
This might be something that you already do or have never thought about doing before. To me reading research articles was something I did when I had time, and let’s be real there is not much free time during your dietetic internship. I can’t tell you how many times I heard from my preceptors, “well according to new research”. It got to the point where I wanted to be the one to say that and teach my preceptors something. This got me motivated to read a new research article once a week. It may sound time-consuming but if you find a topic that interests you, the time flys by and you learn something new. It’s a win, win.
I just read the updated position paper on Nutrition and Athletic Performance.
4. A planner can and will save your life.
Whether you are already an organized person or not, a planner is a must during your internship. Some of your rotations may be the same each day, but there are some rotations where you are doing something different every day. Being able to put everything in your planner can help you stay calm and not panic when it’s something new every day. Especially if you are in a combined program where you are still taking classes, your life can get busy. It just takes one missed assignment to learn the importance of staying on top of your assignments and obligations.
I invested in an Erin Condren LifePlanner, and it is definitely worth the investment. There is not a day I do not use it. Plus a motivational cover never hurt to see on those days where you just want to give up.
Save $10 on your Lifeplanner here!
5. Have fun with it.
You are only a dietetic intern once, so make it something you are proud of. In many programs, the rotations are pretty structured already, but there are places where you can ask to experience something new. A dietetic internship is the best place to learn what you like and do not like. Especially in a hospital setting, ask your preceptor to see patients in an area you are not very sure about. For example, if you are trying to figure out if you like pediatrics or ICU, ask your preceptor to observe or work in those units. It is better to learn it now than at your full-time job and be unhappy.
Some internships provide specialty rotations. This is a great place to talk to your internship coordinator about filling any interests of yours. If you are interested in the communications and PR dietitians do, see if there is a place you can intern with through your program. Maybe you love the idea of working in a supermarket. Whatever you might be thinking you would enjoy, try to speak to your internship director to see if it’s allowed to have a specialty rotation. (In some internships, that is not the case.) Overall, you are going to be a dietetic intern for a significant amount of time and it is best to enjoy your time and remember the reasons why you went into dietetics.
Have any questions about dietetic internships, feel free to contact me. I was in your shoes recently and understand the feelings you may be having. All dietitians have been there before. If we can make it, so can you! Believe in yourself and you will do great.