The dietetic internship, one of the many hurdles in becoming an RD that we have to overcome. Statistically speaking only half of the people that apply for an internship get matched. If you are one of the lucky ones to get matched to an internship you are likely starting this fall (if you haven’t already), congratulations! This is a huge accomplishment and you should be proud of yourself. To better help you prepare for the internship I’ve come up with a list of things that I wish I knew I would experience during the internship. These are things that I don’t think most people talk about, things that you can’t necessarily prepare for, but also things that I think future dietitians should know.
I would like to add that while I can’t speak from the personal experience of completing the internship during a pandemic and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement , I do think that these experiences of the internship are still applicable. So let’s jump right to it. 5 things I wish I knew before starting the dietetic internship!
1. You will be tired
An understatement. You will be working a full time job (for free) about 40 hours a week and on top of that you will have to complete assignments, attend lectures, prepare presentations, work on projects, commute to your rotations and on top of all that you have to live your life. ? It is truly insanity how much we are expected to do in such little time and for so much money (that we pay). I don’t think people talk about how tired you’ll be and how to manage the feeling of being tired and when to recognize that you might be more than just tired which brings me to my next point.
2. You will be stressed
Probably the most stressful period in life, the next stressful period will be studying for the exam. I wish I had known how stressed I would be so I could have developed better stress management skills and prepared for them in advance. ??♀️ Instead I resorted to stress eating and working myself to the point of exhaustion. On top of that the stress added an extra layer of difficulty to my life because I was diagnosed with depression and IBD within a few months of each other after 4 months of the internship. This wreaked havoc on my mental state and emotional well being for the majority of the internship. Had I known what was coming I would have focused more on my mental health (meditation, movement, breathing etc.) so that I could be better prepared to physically survive the internship.
3. You will be confused
Something that my preceptor said during the internship is that this is the perfect time to make mistakes. Mistakes teach you something and it’s best to make them now when you’re supervised than when you’re working. ? This was such a validating statement to hear and made me feel comfortable during my internship. You DO NOT have to be perfect during your DI you are a student, you are learning, you will stumble along the way and that is OKAY! Perfection is not the name of the game for this part of your life, instead absorption is. Absorbing as much knowledge as possible to help you become the best RD you can be. Lean in to the confusion and ask questions, be curious and believe in yourself.
4. You will be amazed
I really mean it, you will be surprised by yourself. You’ll be surprised by all the things you actually know when you stop doubting yourself. Surprised by all the things you’ll learn in the next 9-24 months. Surprised at how much you accomplished. Surprised by the things you’ll learn you’re actually interested in. For example, it wasn’t until my Nutrition Informatics rotation that I learned how much I enjoyed the topic. IF (big if) I ever go back to school, I might looking into getting a Masters in the topic because it’s truly my favorite things combined, data and nutrition! All this to say, live in the moment of the internship, you only get this once and you will learn so much about yourself and the future of your career. You’ll also be amazed at how quickly you can pull together assignments and fill in your daily logs when you find out they are due in a few weeks. ?
5. You will accumulate DEBT
This is IMPORTANT. No one really made it clear what life will be like when you stop working to do the DI (and keep being unemployed for another year to take the text and wait for your job to hire you). I used up my savings in the first few months of the internship and then relied on my partner’s salary and CRE??DIT?? CARDS?? to get by. There was no other way for us to make ends meet when we went from a two income household to a single income household with less than a month’s notice (because I was accepted to my DI after someone dropped out, that’s a story for another day). Thankfully we were able to live mostly off of my partner’s salary but the credit cards allowed us to get groceries and other essentials that we needed to survive. At the time of my internship SNAP was not something I was eligible for because of my partner’s salary, but if it was available to us it would have been useful for sure. Debt is a huge part of higher learning, we’re all aware of that yes, but it just hits different when you don’t even have the time to work to try and make money to survive.
That’s a wrap for the top 5 things I wish I knew before starting the internship. Did I miss a tip you found useful to during your DI or you’d like to share for future dietitians? Let them know in the comments! ✨