Tag Archives: job search

Life is Taking Me WHERE? Learning to Fit In

I grew up as a Coast Guard brat, moving around the country every few years. I ended up spending my entire high school years in Maryland, where I also ended up attending the University of Maryland, College Park as well as my dietetic internship.  Watching my mom deal with all the moves when I was growing up made me decide that I would never want to marry into the military life, and I loved Maryland.

Fast forward: in college I met an Army ROTC cadet who I ended up marrying during my internship in 2011.  (Guess you can’t really help who you fall in love with, right? And turns out he’s worth it to deal with the whole Army thing 🙂 )  And now, here I am, an Army wife who last summer had to relocate to a strange new place, leave all my friends and family behind, adjust to married life, and…oh yeah, pass the RD exam and start my career

El Paso Juarez Exit

Careful you don't take a wrong turn and end up in Juarez by accident!

Last summer I moved to El Paso, TX, which is a sprawling city (pop ~650,000) in west Texas that immediately borders Juarez, Mexico.  Before you jump to conclusions about what it’s like to border one of the most dangerous, “murder capitals” of the world, El Paso has recently been named one of the safest cities of over 500,000 people, which I can agree with.  Plus our neighbor has some WONDERFUL influences on us, not to be forgotten – Juarez contributes a lot of beautiful art, delicious cuisine, and citizens from both sides of the border are the friendliest population group I have ever been among.  Bordering Mexico does have challenges, however, such as a HUGE cultural shift from the East Coast, including the language, food, and lifestyle.

**Note: I really enjoy living here! Of course adjusting was difficult but El Paso really is a wonderful place.  I encourage anyone to visit before they judge it!**

I decided early on that finding a job working in clinical nutrition was probably my best bet in this locale:

  1. It would be a good experience to work in clinical right out of my internship to continue sharpening my skills in assessing, interviewing, educating, and intervening in a variety of patients and conditions.
  2. All the community nutrition jobs (primarily for low-income El Pasoans) required you know Spanish, and for good reason. Hospitals have staff that could help translate – I only know a small amount of conversational Spanish. (¡qué lástima!)
  3. Many organizations such as dialysis centers required at least 1 year of experience outside of the internship.  I had 0.
  4. Working for a national hospital company may benefit me in the long run by allowing me to relocate within their system as I need to move around with my husband.
  5. I like clinical!

My internship provided me with so many rotations in so many different places, and as a result that experience REALLY helped.  As I interviewed for jobs, I had a lot of insight on how various facilities can differ in terms of management style, workplace culture, RD job duties, and patient population.

I was thrilled when I found an RD position for a medical center nearby, working alongside a few other dietitians, only one of whom is Hispanic and Spanish-speaking.  Not to say it hasn’t had its challenges!

I’d say about half of my patients do not speak ANY English.  Some of them don’t even live in El Paso – they came from across the border.  I’ve learned that in my facility, asking nurses to help translate is the best option, if they’re available to help.  Most of the nurses are from around here and are fluent in Spanish.  One time I made the mistake of having a patients grandson help to translate what was supposed to be a brief, simple education, and boy was that a mess.  He didn’t understand what I was trying to say, so the patient ended up even more confused; I ended up having to wait for the nurse to come help anyways!  Plus the nurses are usually familiar with the educational content I provide, so they know exactly what I’m trying to say as well as how to explain it, unlike a family member.

Often times I also ask for assistance from the Spanish-speaking RD on staff, who has been extremely helpful!  She’s also helped teach me about common food items and other cultural differences in El Paso that I’m not used to.

Here’s my main point: My advice to any dietitians (or even nurses, doctors, or other healthcare workers) who must move to an unfamiliar place…immerse yourself in their culture, and find a local to enlighten you on how people live.  Joining the local dietetic association was also really helpful- you’ll meet RDs who have lived there forever.  I realize El Paso is a pretty extreme example, but the same advice applies.

The bottom line is if you don’t know your patient population, you can’t do your job well.  This is especially crucial when you’re dealing with their eating and lifestyle habits – I can’t tell a person of Mexican descent to stop eating tortillas, that would just be loco.  Number one rule of nutrition counseling is to work with the patient to make small changes to gradually lead to big improvements.  I need to know the baseline diet of the average person here in order to meet them on their level.  To do that, I’ve visited the grocery stores (including the Mexican markets), read the local paper for specials and restaurant reviews, explored menus, grilled my coworker who is a born and bred El Pasoan, and even sampled the local delicacy – Chico’s Tacos (the locals love it but I had a hard time stomaching it haha).

Chico's Tacos

El Paso fare - Chico's Tacos

It’s a whole different world than the one I came from, but it turns out I have adjusted pretty well and now I am really enjoying my time here.  Working as an RD in a foreign place is a challenge, but I know it’s making me a better dietitian in the long run!

If you have any tips on adjusting to different cultures in the nutrition or healthcare industry, please share them!

Advertisements

Mission: EMPLOYED Dietitian

I’m happy to report that I have officially started my career earlier this month as a clinical dietitian at Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso, TX, part of HCA Healthcare!Del Sol Medical Center

I moved down here early August and my main priority was preparing for the RD exam- but I still devoted quite a bit of time to job searching too.  There did not seem to be many RD jobs in the area; while El Paso is a large city, it is pretty isolated.  There’s not really any nearby towns or counties to look for a job, unlike where I used to live outside of Washington, DC.

Luckily, after about two months of active searching, I was offered a position at Del Sol, which has been fantastic.  I’m on a team with four other dietitians for the 350-bed hospital.  For now, I am overseeing telemetry (cardiac, mostly) and part of the surgical unit.  I’m thankful to have great coworkers who have been so helpful in training me!

Finding a job took time and energy, but it is possible!  Here are some tips I found helpful:

  • Utilize job search enginesIndeed is my favorite, and it’s how I found my current job! Consider nutritionjobs.com, CareerBuilder, DietianCentral, and foodandnutritionjobs.com.  I’m sure there are a ton more out there, but these helped me.  On some, you can even sign up for job alerts in your area.
  • Network!! I joined my local dietetic association, El Paso Dietetic Association, and brought my contact info.  When I made a connection I followed up with them shortly after.  Making a good impression to someone, who can pass on your name, could really come in handy.  Plus I met a ton of nice RDs in the area!
  • Do your research. Look up hospitals, community nutrition centers, and other places that employ RDs and search their websites for any job vacancies, or just contact them directly.  You never know!  Make sure to check government job listings for positions such as WIC dietitians or nutrition educators.
  • Consider telecommuting. Because I am pretty isolated, I opened myself up to an online position, such as a social networking manager, web content contributor, blogger, etc.  Craig’s List is surprisingly useful for this kind of job, as well as the LinkedIn job search; however I didn’t always see these types of jobs on the traditional job search engines.
  • Put yourself out there.  True story: a communications professional from a healthcare company on the other side of the country found THIS blog.  He then contacted me to potentially blog for their company!  I’ve also networked with RDs and healthcare professionals via Twitter, including an El Paso RD who invited me to join the El Paso Dietetic Association.
  • Use your resources. Ask your contacts if they know anyone in the city you plan to work, and if they can pass on your name and contact information.  Because I did my internship in the DC and Baltimore areas, I made a TON of contacts that may have been helpful in finding a job.  Moving across the country? Not so helpful…
  • Use ADA (Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics). Dietetic Practice Groups (found on eatright.org) and their listserves can seriously come in handy.  One of the other dietetic interns in my group knew I was moving to El Paso, and she received an email over the listserve advertising for a job out here.  She forwarded it to me, and although it didn’t turn out to be a job I was qualified for, I still made a contact with that person and kept in touch.
  • Don’t give up! I applied to jobs I wasn’t necessarily qualified for or didn’t think I stood a chance of getting.  I know I was turned down for one job because I didn’t speak Spanish, but it was still good practice, and I established more contacts.

**Also: if you are a new RD, don’t be discouraged by older RDs with masters degrees, etc.  Market yourself as enthusiastic, easily trained, and equipped with the latest nutritional knowledge.  Plus, you’re probably a lot cheaper to hire than a more decorated RD, so chin up!

It may not be a fun process, but when you land a job, it feels so great! Does anyone else have any job-finding tips they’d like to share?