Tag Archives: nutritionist

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!

Revival Blog Post – Life as a New RD

Since my last post, I admit I’ve been a little confused on how to progress with this blog.  “Mission: Dietitian” was intended to outline my progress through the dietetic internship and becoming a Registered Dietitian.  Well…it’s over, I’m an RD, now what?

Over the past couple months I’ve been getting quite a bit of feedback from readers, mostly emails from future RDs/interns asking about my experiences and applications (I try to get back to people as best I can, apologies if my responses are delayed!)  Plus my blog views have risen exponentially since I wrote posts about studying for the RD exam and finding a job.  I’m so happy I can help fill the internet void that I encountered when I googled “tips for studying for RD exam”.

Bear with me while I make a few changes to the blog, such as changing my header (I haven’t been a dietetic intern for quite a while now!) and shifting the focus from becoming an RD to actually being a new RD.  Starting my full-time career has definitely kept me busy but I feel confident I can start blogging regularly once again.  I hope that my posts continue to inspire and help potential dietetic students, interns, and other new dietitians!

As always, I welcome your feedback, suggestions, and questions via comments on the blog.  Is there anything about becoming/being a dietitian you’d like me to write about in particular?

Mission: Dietitian SUCCESS

Registered DietitianI am happy to report that after years of developing my career goals, 5 years of intense education, and months of studying, I have taken the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) RD-exam and passed, making me a Registered Dietitian at last!!

The test itself was a challenge, I thought.  It didn’t help that the testing center had a few problems, delaying my start about 30 minutes while they had to make some phone calls to get it running.  I was sitting there, feeling my blood pressure skyrocket- I was so scared that they’d come out and tell me to come back another day.  I just wanted to get it over with finally!  At that point I was just excited to take the test and move on with my life!

There was a quick video tutorial that kind of brought me back down to reality before the actual questions started.  It was nice to get a quick overview of the system and definitely helped me refocus before the test.  Then I began!

There is a minimum of 125 multiple choice questions, and a maximum of 145.  If you’re definitely going to pass or fail at 125 I believe they cut you off, however if there’s a chance you could pass with more questions, they will extend it.  As I pressed submit at question 125, I held my breath.

Then the screen went blank, and I was taken to a survey.  I hardly read the survey however because I wanted to get to my results!  Thankfully I passed- my score was over the required “25” with some room to spare (still not sure how they really calculate that). I got a good mix of foodservice/management as well as nutritional sciences/clinical.  I felt like I was guessing on quite a bit of questions, but I suppose my clinical and managerial judgement was good!  The review materials and practice questions I had definitely came in handy.  My next post will be about what I used to study and prepare for the RD exam.

Please let me know if you have any questions about what the exam was like, or if you have anything to add about the testing experience!

Dietetic Internship Graduation

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It’s official: I have graduated from my internship!  I apologize that it’s taken some time to update my blog, but I have good reason for the delay!  Right after graduation I had to tie up a bunch of loose ends, pack up all my possessions, and drive across the country from Annapolis, MD to El Paso, TX.

Now that I am getting all settled in my new home, I am prepping for potential interviews and beginning to study for the RD exam.  Any advice from RDs who recently took the exam is much appreciated!

All in all this internship was a great experience to enhance me personally and professionally.  It exposed me to all different areas in dietetics.  Although my short term goals might be more traditional (most likely a clinical inpatient or outpatient position), I plan to use my IT skills gained in my internship to maintain a website and social media platforms.  Some of my long term goals include going back to school, community work, writing, and ideally some involvement in policy and legislation.  Without the exposure from this particular internship, I am not sure I would be aware of all of my options!

Thank you for following my blog- although the internship is over, I will continue to provide updates until I am finally a Registered Dietitian!

Staff “Relief”?

It’s down to the final two weeks of my dietetic internship clinical rotation: staff relief.  This is when I return to my original hospital that I spent 8 weeks at to perform as a fully-functioning dietitian.  After spending two amazing weeks at the VA, returning to my old hospital and trying to get back into how they do things was a little stressful at first.  For example, at the VA dietitians recommended tube feeding orders that the doctors could order, by describing it in notes that they submitted to the chart.  At the hospital I am at now, the dietitians actually put in the order themselves.  Since it is computerized, it took me a while to remember all the various steps of submitting the tube feeding formula, initiation, rate, additional instructions, attaching physicians, and electronically signing.  Luckily I picked it Continue reading

Not Your Average Internship

Match for Internship

The Greatest Relief EVER!

For those of you not in the field of nutrition, you may be wondering why I am blogging about a silly little internship.  So I can share stories of getting coffee for the boss? Doing menial tasks to assist the real workers? Silently suffering at the bottom of the ladder in the hope of one day being hired?

While I’m sure that would be a thrilling blog to read, this is NOT that kind of internship.  Instead, I like to think of it as nursing school, but for dietitians.  A college degree is required, and completion of an internship is necessary to obtain the coveted “RD” (Registered Dietitian) credentials behind my name so I can get a job.  It’s sort of a graduate program that you pay for, but you don’t earn graduate credit.  Basically, I am in career limbo.

My dietetic internship has a ton of different rotations and sites that I will be blogging about.  For example, I’ll be working at a local hospital for my clinical rotation, Riderwood Village and UMD Dining Services for my foodservice rotations, Food & Friends and School Lunch for my community rotations, and IFIC (International Food Information Center) and CNPP (Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion) for my information technology rotations.  My internship director explained this process as “A 10.5 month job interview.” All the rotations will definitely help me pinpoint where I would like to go in my career, and who knows, maybe a job will come out of it as well!

Getting here wasn’t necessarily simple.  For each internship I applied to, I had to write a slightly different essay, fill out lengthy forms, and solicit three letters of recommendation from my work supervisors and professors.  The various internships I applied to had different requirements and different due dates; this caused me many afternoons of stressing out at the post office, triple-checking to make sure I had everything in order for an overnight, traceable delivery (I couldn’t risk my applications getting lost in the mail!)

After that, there was a long period of waiting: first for an invitation for an interview, and eventually for match day.  Match day was the day that we found out 1) If we got an internship 2) which one we got.  No, we weren’t offered admission from different programs and then got to choose; instead, we had to rank the internships, they ranked us, and we were matched by a computer system.  Sound stressful? It was.  Of course, the <50% acceptance rate to dietetic internships didn’t help with the anxiety.

Fortunately, on that fateful day, I was matched to the UMD internship, and here I am!  I loved the variety of rotations within the program and its focus on nutrition communications and information technology.  I could not be more excited to get started!  First up: clinical rotations!