It’s April and spring is here! This time of year carries different meanings for different people, and if you’re an undergraduate nutrition student on the verge of graduating, it can be a stressful time. That’s because the first Sunday in April is Match Day, otherwise known as the end of one journey and the start of another. It’s the day when future dietitians (#RD2Be) find out where they’re heading to continue their education on the road to their future careers. Professors are replaced by preceptors, who guide interns through the intricacies of what dietetic practice looks like in real life. They are vitally important to shaping the future of the profession and training the next generation of registered dietitians. So April is designated as Preceptor Month by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, recognizing the important work preceptors are doing nationwide.
I remember my own experiences from my internship – but I’m not here to talk about that today. I wanted to see what others would share if they could, so this month I’m bringing a few more guest posts to the blog. Our first one is from Amy Lee, who I met while she was in her clinical nutrition rotation at the same hospital where I work. With that, I’ll hand it off to her!
I’m Amy, a dietetic intern and graduate student living in Kansas City. I was asked to pop by the Street Smart Nutrition Blog and talk a little bit about my internship thus far, and of course do a little bit of bragging on my preceptors to celebrate Preceptor Month. So, let’s dive in!
First of all, let me explain what I mean by “dietetic intern.” The dietetic internship is completed after obtaining a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in nutrition, and consists of 1200 supervised practice hours overseen by a preceptor in areas such as clinical nutrition, community nutrition, foodservice management, and more.
There is currently a nationwide shortage of preceptors for these internships, which means that only ~50% of students applying for internships will actually get one (so as you can see, preceptors are important). After being matched to an internship, students then begin to complete their hours with preceptors, eventually progressing to become competent entry-level practitioners and take the RD exam.
So far, I’m about 2/3 of the way through my internship and getting closer and closer to taking my RD exam in August. In a nutshell, this internship has been everything I expected and more. It’s more time-consuming, more challenging, more exciting, more fun, and more overwhelming than I every expected. It’s almost like every single aspect is heightened – the highs are higher, the lows are lower, and every day is different. It’s a crazy ride, but I’m so grateful for the ways that this internship is teaching me and changing me, and preparing me to serve my future clients.
I’ve counseled expecting mothers, blown kisses and clapped with a toddler after writing her tube feeding orders, worked at a free clinic providing diabetes counseling, attended a public policy workshop to learn how to advocate for myself and my profession, and even more. Looking back on the experience so far, I know that this is certainly the most important year of my education – and I also know that none of it would be possible without my preceptors. Dietitians’ jobs are crazy-busy, and I’ve learned so much from each and every preceptor but I haven’t had the time to thank them outside of a quick note at the end of each rotation. I thought it would be fun to turn this post into a proper thank-you to my preceptors in the form of a letter.
To my preceptors:
Before I met you, I knew next to nothing outside of what was found in my textbooks. I spent four years preparing to spend time with you during my internship, though I wasn’t prepared for the amount of learning I’d be doing during my rotations with you. Because of the 1200 hours all of you spent teaching me, I am prepared to take the RD exam and join you in this field – and I know the learning will never be over.
First of all, I’d like to thank you for agreeing to help me on my path to become a dietitian. I know you don’t get extra pay for this, and I know taking on an intern means tons of time teaching, guiding, and answering questions. You took a gamble on me and signed up to precept an intern without even knowing my name, and I’m oh so glad you did. Without you, I literally wouldn’t have been able to finish this internship, and I certainly wouldn’t become an RD. This field has a severe shortage of preceptors (hence the 50% match rate for internships), so I’m incredibly grateful you decided to be one of them.
Thank you for taking the time to get to know me, for setting the bar low during my first few days, and for bringing me up to high, high standards by the end of my rotation with you. Thank you for simultaneously building my confidence and checking my ego, and for teaching me to view things with a critical eye. I appreciate that you cared about how my day was going, what I was learning in classes, and what I want to do with my life. And of course, thank you for teaching me where to find coffee and making sure I was included in all the events that possibly provided free snacks and meals.
Most of all, thank you for forcing me out of my comfort zone. Thank you for making me speak up during rounds, talk to physicians, write orders, run meetings, give presentations, and counsel patients with no training wheels. Thank you for telling me to try all of the supplements in the formulary so I know what we’re asking of our patients (and thank you for the peanut butter cup shake you got me after I had to drink the baby formulas).
I really cannot thank you enough for everything that you’ve done for me, and for the time you took to build me into the RD that I’ll become. And I know I asked you more questions and made more requests of you than you could possibly address during my rotation, but if you don’t mind, I have one more: please, please do this again for the next intern. He or she needs you.
Amy is an MS/RD student at University of Kansas Medical Center. She is passionate about helping others find food freedom and achieve whole health at any stage of life. Find Amy on her website, Satisfy Nutrition, or on Instagram @satisfy.nutrition!
Learn more about Preceptor Month with these resources HERE.