Thursday, May 7, 2015

5 Tips To Have The BEST Dietetic Internship

Graduation is right around the corner and you're all set! You've got your dietetic internship lined up and your are ready to leave the collegiate life behind!

But then it starts to sink in... You're elation for actually getting an internship starts to turn into complete anxiety for what lies ahead!!

First of all, RELAX! You got an internship!!! Congrats!! That was more than I could say this time last year!

I was one of the many who did NOT get matched in that first round. The month following Match Day was a whirlwind of doubt, anxiety, and "Dear Lord, what I going to do, now?!"

I was very, very fortunate enough to get selected into Fontbonne University's ISPP program after that month of scrambling to send off 2nd round matching applications.

But soon after that flood of joyful tears (and I mean flood!), excitement was replaced with apprehension for this new journey I was about to embark on...

And I am sure all of you soon-to-be-interns are feeling the same way! But, not to worry! I have teamed up with fellow NIU alum Sarah Kestner to provide tips that will help you have the internship experience of a lifetime!!

Sarah and I both completed our undergraduate degrees at Northern Illinois University. She, too, did not get matched in the first round last April. So, the two of us spent a lot of time confiding in each other over the astronomical stress of "What do we do now!?"
I am happy to say that Sarah was accepted into NIU's ISPP program just as I was into Fontbonne's (ISPP students ROCK! :-D) Sarah will be completing her internship rotations this month and getting ready to take the RD exam! (Go Sarah!!)

Due to my graduate classes, this is just as I am heading out of officially start my rotations! I have been doing a few activities and assignments here or there along with my graduate classes, but in a few weeks I will really be able to break in that white lab coat!

In light of this perfect timing, we thought we would pass along some of the tips and tricks we have learned to this new wave of interns!

Here are 5 ways to have the BEST internship experience ever!!

1. Be Prepared

Sarah: In my dietetic internship experience, coming prepared on your first day is very important. Each preceptor may want something different or require a different dress code. Be prepared and ask them ahead of time if there is anything you need to have before you start your first day with them. Also, be prepared for anything from food service to community work. You will see something different each day. Be prepared to take notes and watch how each individual handles an uncomfortable or crazy situation!

Hannah: As I am preparing for my first rotation site, this is SO important! With my program, each site has a handful of required article readings, some of which preceptors expect to be completed before I get there! It is essential to know exactly what you need to bring that first day (completed paperwork, insight on the company, ect). I also think being organized goes hand-in-hand with this preparedness! So stay organized and start off your rotations on the right foot by being prepared!

2. Ask Questions

Sarah: During my MNT rotation I felt like all I did was ask questions. I also had a lot of questions during my community rotations, since I was at different sites every two weeks! Take notes and ask questions. One day you will be the dietitian in that situation wondering what you should do, and if you never asked you may not have an answer. There were many situations that I did not know what I should say to a patient or how I should handle a situation. This is why your preceptors are there, to help! Ask questions and write down those answers!

Hannah: Going into rotations, you may feel a little intimidated or hesitant to ask questions (Lord knows I will be! This is something I will certainly be working on throughout this experience...) But it is important to remember that this is your job as an intern, to learn! Your preceptors will (or should) be well aware of that and ready to assist you through these questions. But, when it comes to small questions, try to be self-sufficient and attempt to find the answer on your own first. That initiative will impress preceptors.

3. Dress Professional

Sarah: I know this is an obvious one, but sometimes when you get comfortable where you are you may start to get a little sloppy. DON'T! One statement that really stuck with me is that we are representing our schools in how we dress, speak and act. It is important to always look your best because you will also feel your best. In this stressful internship experience, there is nothing wrong with feeling your best!

Hannah: Definitely be familiar with the dress code of your rotation site and be mindful of the tasks you will be doing there. When I did my internship with the American Diabetes Association in October, I oftentimes had to be moving things in and out of the storage basement (event planning: not all glamorous...) One time I wore heels and was not aware that this particular day would involve heavy lifting. My supervisor made a comment about not having to wear cute heels the next day, and then I felt like an idiot instead of a professional... But if you are game for trotting around in heels, keep a pair of flats in your bag just in case. :)

4. Keep in Touch

Sarah: As I am finishing my dietetic internship I have made a point to email all ten to twelve different dietitians I worked with to tell them the exciting news that I am done and on my way to taking my exam. These preceptors have taken a lot of time and effort to instill knowledge into our futures. It is important to let them know how you are doing with your professional goals and to stay in touch. Many of my preceptors have become near and dear to me and I look forward to seeing them all again. They are amazing people! You won’t find it difficult to stay in touch with them. Just send a quick email letting them know their hard work has benefited you!

Hannah: The one common theme I have been hearing throughout my professional development (blogging and dietetics) is networking! My internship coordinator said the best thing during our "Internship Boot Camp" last week. "The field of dietetics in like a small town. Everyone talks and knows each other." This is why networking is so important, because so many dietitians end up landing a job based off of who they know or who they are referred by. The internship (as scary as it seems) is the ULTIMATE networking opportunity! Not only networking with your preceptors, but with everyone you connect with throughout the experience. Dropping those quick "Hey! Just telling you what's happening!" emails as Sarah mentioned may lead to your first entry-level job (or even your dream job!)

5. Thank you letters

Sarah: It may seem tedious and old-fashioned, but always write a thank you letter after each rotation of your internship. Each rotation I had at least two dietitians that I worked closely with, therefore I wrote many thank you letters throughout my internship. I recommend some cute stationary from the store that has about 20 in a pack that say thank you and use those for the whole internship! The thank you letters show that you have taken time out of your day to send a hand-written letter and shows that the work they put into you is appreciated!

Hannah: Even if you do drop those "Just checking in!" emails, snail mail should not be forgotten! This goes back to the networking and leaving a good impression on your preceptors (AKA: your possible future employer/ co-worker). Be sure to send a handwritten thank you to really show you appreciate them taking the time to teach and mentor you (WHILE still doing their job! Super. Human. I tell ya!) Also, throw in a business card with your contact info on it. That way they will also know how to reach you (when that position opens *wink**wink*)

Sarah and I would like to wish you all good luck during your dietetic internship. It may be a stressful time, but remember to HAVE FUN!! Before you know it you will be studying for your RD exam and off to your future!

What is your tip for new dietetic interns?! 

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