How to make the best out of your dietetic internship

As many of you know, every registered dietitian has gone through the dietetic internship at some point. I completed mine at Massachusetts General Hospital and I have to say, it was an amazing year. I kept a blog of my experiences to be able to share with future interns on what DI life is like- www.fromnyctoboston.wordpress.com.

I went through a lot during the internship, had my ups and downs, but learned that one of the most important things you can do to enhance your experience is to reflect. After every rotation we would write down reflections on what was good, bad, and could be improved. After doing these, I realized that it helped me grow and learn so much more during my time at MGH.

In this post, I share with those who have been matched and are in the internship or preparing to being your internship (BIG CONGRATS), how to make the best out of your DI

 1)     Enter with an open mind- I cannot stress how important this is. I went into the internship thinking I would hate clinical and yes it was tough and I admit I didn’t enjoy it the first few weeks but I started to be a little more open minded and thought of it as a learning experience. Not only was it not as painful but I was also kind of enjoying my surgery and ICU rotations. So bottom line is you will never know unless you try. So if you enter the internship thinking that you will hate a specific rotation, you will hate it. And why go through that when you can have a much better experience by being more open minded?

2)     Put in your best effort – The more you put into it, the more you get out of it. Not trying to scare anyone here but the internship is a tough year. However it is a year of learning that you will almost never be able to experience again. It’s a time for you be a sponge and just absorb all that you can- from your preceptors, fellow interns, directors, and other students. Put in all you have and you will not regret not trying harder. And trust me, it’s not fun when you say to yourself, “I wish I tried harder.”

3)     Stray from comparing yourself to your fellow interns– Fellow interns are amazing. I loved every single one in my class and even lived with 2 of them who are now my best friends. However, when you are all in the same program, doing the same things, it’s hard not to compare yourself to others who share the similar interests as you. There will be times where you may ask yourself, “why do I not know that..?” or maybe “how does she have time to do all that?” When this gets into your head, remind yourself that you are here for you and not to be better than others. Every intern comes from a different background with different strengths and different weaknesses. You will realize your strengths and weaknesses as you go through the internship, which will allow you to become more aware of what you need to work on and what makes you stand out. Rather than trying to be like others or be better than others, see it as a learning opportunity to work harder in that specific area that needs improvement.

4)     Make time to network- I cannot emphasize how important networking is. Typical situation- you are a tired dietetic intern and you receive an email about a networking opportunity with the dietetic association. blah. tired, rainy, gross, sleepy….need a nap. This happens. More often than I would like it to happen but networking helps so much in terms of learning more about what other dietitians are doing and sharing ideas. Keep in mind that the nutrition community is VERY SMALL. A good word about you gets very far. True story- my director in Boston met two of my preceptors from NYC at a dinner… in Philadelphia. Thank god they had nothing but good things to say but as I mentioned early, the nutrition world is tiny so take advantage of it.

5)     Be open to feedback- You will never get better at something if you don’t ask for feedback. This applies to anything but it’s especially important during your internship. If you move along the internship thinking you are doing everything wonderfully and never ask for feedback, you will never know if you can do it better. Feedback has helped me improve my counseling skills significantly and has helped me recognize and accept the areas in which I need improvement in. Feedback is your friend.

6)     Stay positive- You will have your ups and downs during the internship (trust me, you will).  After a long day, ask yourself, “what’s in it for me?” Why did you choose to be here in the first place? When will you ever have a chance to tag along and learn from some of the best dietitians in the field? We are so lucky to be in this field to be able to do just that. My fellow intern Kelsey has helped me stay positive during my time at MGH and I have to say, it has made my experience so much better.

Hope this advice will help make your internship experience as wonderful as mine. I have found that helping future RDs is a huge passion of mine- I’ve spoken at internship panels, represented at dietetic internship fairs, created a DICAS manual for students, and am always open to speaking with nutrition students. Really though, I’ve been there and I totally understand how stressful things can get. Feel free to reach out- visit the contact me tab for more information!

Good luck on your DI and congrats! Enjoy it- it will fly by 🙂

Happy snacking,

Joanna

 

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