Dietetic interns in lab coats: The second year

Northern Illinois University has a two and a half year combined M.S. Nutrition and Dietetics/Dietetic Internship program. If you came across a dietetic intern while visiting campus during the fall or spring semesters, you might find that she or he is in the middle of any sort of rotation. They may be counseling clients at NIU’s Rec Center, chopping vegetables in one of the dining halls, or preparing to teach children nutrition lessons through the CATCH program at a local elementary school. However, during the summer, only one kind of rotation exists for students enrolled in the combined program. The summer is when interns scatter across the area, put on white lab coats, and work 40 hours a week alongside clinical dietitians in a hospital setting. Beginning such an experience conjures excitement and anxiety as we anticipate being tested on many of the scientific principles we study over the years. I spoke with Emily Burns and Rachel Bagne, dietetic interns, about their recent experience with clinical rotations.

Emily Burns
Emily Burns

Emily Burns, Nutrition and Dietetics M.S. Candidate 2019/Dietetic Intern, 2018-2019 Nutrition In yoU Blog Contributor

Where did you complete your clinical rotation?
I did my clinical rotation at Palos Community Hospital in Palos Heights.
What was the biggest challenge you overcame during your rotation?
Knowing what to say to patients. Being a student for so long, I felt nervous to go into patient’s rooms and educating nutrition for their specific diagnosis. I felt like I did not know everything and was worried about not knowing the answer to their questions. However, with more practice, I became comfortable with visiting patients and grew in my counseling skills. In the end, I loved talking with patients and developed a deeper love for clinical aspect of nutrition.
What one piece of advice would you give someone getting ready to start their clinical rotation?
Know that you will not always have the answer to every question and that is okay. As mentioned above that was what I struggled with starting out. As a student, we are ingrained to always know the  “right” answer. However, in practice, I found it’s important to be honest with your patients. You may need to research more and come back a second time, and that is okay. In the end, you learn something new every day. Overall, it is a great experience! As weird as it may sound, you will miss it once it is over.
Rachel Bagne
Rachel Bagne
Rachel Bagne, Nutrition and Dietetics M.S. Candidate 2020/Dietetic Intern
Where did you do your clinical rotation?
I completed my clinical rotation at Swedish American Hospital in Rockford.
How did your assumptions about the clinical rotation vary from reality?
I was very scared going into this rotation. I am a hands-on learner and felt incredibly unsure of my ability to perform well in this setting because I didn’t necessarily trust that I had retained as much as I was expected to during my formal classroom studies. The reality was that I know SO much more than I thought I did and all the years of repetition and building knowledge truly did sink in. Additionally, that foundation that I built made a strong base for the overwhelming amount of information I acquired during my 13 weeks in the clinical setting.
What one piece of advice would you give someone getting ready to start their clinical rotation?
Trust yourself and have an open mind. I have heard over and over (and said myself) that dietetic interns don’t typically love the idea of clinicals going into the rotation, but very often that idea is overturned by the end of the experience.
It truly is an experience that is what you make of it. I had incredible preceptors and never stopped asking questions, which made my time there one that I will continue to be thankful for throughout my years as a RD.
Thank you Emily and Rachel for your insight. It seems as though your experiences provided you both with opportunities to grow and develop important skills.
Nutrition and Dietetics covers many areas and as students, it is sometimes hard to know where exactly you would like to end up in your career. We are encouraged by our professors and advisers to seek out opportunities on our own. During the first summer of the combined program, the M.S./DI students may take a break from academics if they choose. Many decide to utilize their time to take an extra class or try out new adventures and delve into summer jobs in the field. Next week, we hear from a few second year Dietetic Interns on how they spent their summer.
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