Did you know that April is National Preceptor Month? Having been a dietetic intern myself, and now as a dietetic internship preceptor within my private practice, I thought it would be fun to do a Q and A with dietetic intern, Rebecca Vidal. Rebecca has a Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences – Dietetics from Rutgers University and was with me during an elective rotation. Thank you to Rebecca for taking part in today’s blog post!
What made you interested in the field of dietetics?
Rebecca: A few years ago, my father and I faced the ravages of chronic diseases. We tried everything from conventional medical doctors, nutritionists, dietitians, and so on. What we discovered is that nutrition acts as the foundation for overall health. In our cases, adopting a plant-based diet is what restored my health in full and what has sustained my father as he continues to battle chronic Lyme disease. Ultimately, that led to my interest in the field of nutrition and surely enough I knew that I wanted to become a dietitian and help others prevent and treat diseases through nutrition.
Can you tell the readers a bit about your internship program?
Rebecca: I am currently finalizing my dietetic internship with Gulf Coast Dietetic Internship Program, which is a distance program. Distance dietetic internship programs involve interns finding their own preceptors and rotation sites rather than the program guaranteeing them. My program consists of four main rotations: community, clinical, elective, and entrepreneurship. There was no requirement to complete them in any order. In the past, dietetic interns needed a total minimum of 1200 hours; yet, in response to the pandemic, the total minimum was reduced to 1000 hours.
Since you are in a distance program, what tips or suggestions can you give to aspiring interns for finding preceptors?
Rebecca: The path towards finding preceptors most certainly is not an easy one. I’ve learned a lot and I’d love to pass on advice towards prospective distance dietetic interns.
First, I HIGHLY recommend using eatrightPRO’s “Find A Preceptor” database. I CANNOT stress this enough. That is precisely how I found the vast majority of my preceptors, including Felicia Porrazza at Porrazza Nutrition LLC and My Dietitian Journey. Visit the website for more information!
Second, I suggest reaching out to any former mentors, professors, work supervisors, current distance dietetic interns, and most importantly, your program director for preceptor contacts. You’ll find that the Dietitian world is very interconnected, and someone is bound to know someone who can take you on for a rotation.
Third, the clinical rotation will probably be the hardest to secure. You will most likely receive a lot of rejections before an acceptance, but do NOT give up. You will find a site! Call your local clinics, hospitals, and long-term care facilities.
How do you stay organized during your internship with balancing rotations, preceptor tasks, and homework assignments?
Rebecca: Calendars! Everyone’s organization style is going to vary. In my case, writing down all my tasks and adhering to their respective deadlines on a calendar made everything doable. Given that my program is accelerated, meaning at least 40 hours a week for the rotation alone, there were many occasions where I would have to make the personal sacrifice of using weekends to finalize assignments, projects, and internship related practice quizzes.
What was the biggest takeaway you learned from your internship experience?
Rebecca: The biggest takeaway was learning that the possibilities for a dietitian are endless! I find that people outside of the field assume that dietitians either end up in a clinic, hospital, or are simply unaware of what dietitians are truly capable of. I’ve worked with dietitians in private practice, traditional clinical settings, meal-kit start-up companies, major corporations, government organizations, as professors for accredited colleges/universities, and more!
Any other words of advice you want to share for dietetic interns for success in their internship?
Rebecca: The dietetic internship process will be time consuming, and you may feel overwhelmed at moments; however, it’s temporary and you will get through it. Also, I do have one general rule: always remain professional and thank your preceptors for taking you on! They are taking their time to help you grow within your career, and quite frankly, that is an honor. I wish any current or prospective dietetic interns the best of luck!
Thank you to Rebecca for providing great insight into the dietetic internship from the perspective of a current intern. To all of my fellow Dietitians out there, if you have the availability to take on a Dietetic intern, please do so! Being a preceptor is rewarding in so many ways, with the biggest being able to give back to the profession and elevate the field of dietetics. You can also obtain CPE hours for precepting from the CDR, which is another win! I continue to learn through my dietetic interns and although precepting can be time consuming, it is well worth it!