Friday, December 5, 2014

What is a Dietetic Intern?

What is a Dietetic Intern?

Our TWU Intern class of 2014

During my internship I was asked this over and over again.  Many people just do not know what a Register Dietitian is, or what it means to be an intern to become one.  Lets make this simple. In order to become a dietitian you must complete an internship inorder to sit for your exams.
But that is not the only thing you have to do in order to become a Register Dietitian.  Currently there are two ways to become a dietitian.  Through an internship or throug a coordinated program.  I went through the internship route.  So what is the difference?
Well the internship route requires you to get your undergraduate prerequisits.  Classes such as Organic and Biochemistry, Anatomy and Physiology, along with all of your nutrition classes such as Macronutrients, Micronutrients, Nutrition thru LifeCycle, Medical Nutrition Therapy, Comunity Nutrition, and many more.   After receiving credit for these classes you must apply for internship.  A process that includes looking at your GPA, your invovlement in the community, oncampus, and work experience.  Internships are very competitive.  Nutrition is becoming more and more popular, however there are only a few internships available.  To get in you must work hard from the begining of your program and prove yourself to be worthy of being selected.
The coordinated program is similar to the internship route.  Techinacally it is an internship, however the route to get in is different.  This is ideal for individuals who already have a bachelors degree and do not want to go back for a second one.  You will have to take their prerequesit class such as anatomy, organic chemistry, and Intro to Nutrution.  During your actual program you will take classes such as the Medical Nutrition Therapy and other classes during the week as a normal college student.  And then on designated days you will do your actual rotations.  So in this program you are learning while you are doing your rotations while the internship you learn first and then apply it.  These programs are even more competitive because many people do not want to get a second bachelors degree.
Many of the coordinated and internship programs have the option of recieving your Masters degree.  This is great because the profession is moving into this direction.  Soon all new RDs will be required to have a master's degree.
So you get into an internship, what should you expect?
The bulk of many internships is clincal and food service.  Clinical rotations are important even if you do not plan on working in a hospital.  It is the most difficult rotation, but it will give you a great foundation to other areas in dietietics.  In the clinical setting you must work with patients to help them nutritionally.  In most cases in the hospital, many patients do not eat enough so you have to come up with methods to help them eat.  In worse cases you have to calculate how much nutrition support they may need through tube feedings.  There are also many opportunities for education in the hospital.  Doctors may want you to educate a patient on a special diet such as in the case with diabetes.  It is a great experience for individuals who like educating.  Foodservice is different depending on where you go.  Some interns go to rotations where they do a lot of food production, while others go where they do mainly administrative and managment tasks.  The main purpose is to learn how to lead a foodservice opperation regardless of where you go.
There are many other sites you may go to during your internship.  These rotations typically are shorter.  Some rotations include going to community organzations such as WIC or a food bank.  You may go to a specialty clinic such as a clinic that specializes in eating disorders, dialysis, or bariatrics.  There are also rotations working with sports nutrition and the media.  That is the great thing about the dietietic profession.  The opportunities are endless. 
Many programs require you to do extra assignments on top of your regular activities.  So working during your internship is almost impossible.  You typically are in internship 40-45hrs a week, and then you have homework on top of that.  Work and a social life is pretty much non-existent at that point.  You must complete 1200hours to get credit for your internship, so you will be busy for anywhere from 6 months to 2 years depending on the program.  Some individuals do part time internships which allows for more flexibility.
After your internship you are one step closer to becoming an RD.  Once your program clears you, you can schedule to take your RD Exam.  The rest is history!!

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