To all my dietetic students, interns/#RD2B’s, and new dietitians, this one’s for you.
“Do I have to work in the hospital right out of dietetic internship”? The elephant-in-the-room, age-old question that just about any dietitian born before 1970 is going to give a resounding “YES”.
When I was in your shoes, I thought it was silly to have to pay $$$ for a year long, 1200-hour CLINICAL dietetic internship and then go work inpatient at a hospital for another 1-2 years. At the time, my only hospital experience was volunteering as a dietetic student which involved delivering meal trays to patients, high-lighting menus, and rolling silverware. Blah. Of course my perception of being an inpatient dietitian was clouded because of those activities (that pretty much everyone does to become competitive for a dietetic internship)!
Once I graduated from internship, I took an inpatient job for 3 days in the pulmonary step-down unit at our local hospital. You take what you can get, but I hate every minute of the job. I didn’t think I wanted to do pediatrics, but I for sure didn’t want to practice in adult pulmonary step-down where I asked “Boost or Ensure” all day.
Three days in, I received a call from the outpatient pediatric endocrinology clinic at the University of Oklahoma in Tulsa. This was a job I had applied to MONTHS prior and assumed they didn’t want me (like the 30+ other places I applied). You cannot take personally job rejection. Let’s talk if you’re struggling and figure out what’s not working!
So, I jumped ship. Yep, not only did I quit my first job after three days but then took a job in “outpatient-world” which left me with “no hospital experience” other than my 30+ weeks from internship. My internship program at Duke clinically focused, so we spent the minimum time required by CDR (Commission on Dietetic Registration) in foodservice and community to allow for maximal time in clinical. I had spent 2 weeks in the NICU and 2 weeks in pediatric bone marrow transplant, yet here I was as a new graduate thrown into a pediatric diabetes clinic where I was also expected to manage tube feeding, failure to thrive, feeding issues, and research.
Years later, I’ve swung to the side of “yeah, in-depth training and experience as a pediatric DIETITIAN (not intern) would have been helpful”. But, I don’t believe this training HAS to take place in the hospital.
I studied every single night after work for my first year. Not only was I still learning to become a dietitian, but I had to learn to counsel patient and parents (always a work in progress), manage appointments with complex disease states and a million issues at once, and also the other non-patient care tasks like figuring out documentation, productivity, nsurance billing, etc.
I’d venture to say for most pediatric hospitals, you won’t be the only pediatric dietitian. You may one of only two or three, but that’s better than going solo. We all need colleagues. We all need someone to bounce ideas off of, collaborate on challenging cases (which always exist in nutrition), and find support in.
I was lucky in that my first clinic that though I may not have had another dietitian, I had two fabulous nurse diabetes educators that took me under their wings. They taught me all the “diabetes things”, how to bill, etc but couldn’t teach me anything re: pediatric nutrition and growth. I leaned very heavily on my physicians to help interpret growth charts, labs, and difficult social situations. This situation was not ideal.
You may or may not be so lucky.
But, there’s an alternative. You find a mentor.
Finding pediatric mentors is HARD. If you know some currently practicing pediatric dietitians, they’re likely too busy with their own patient load each day and it would be difficult to provide you with the attention you need to be successful.
Problem solved, I’m here to help you. I offer dietitian mentorship and supervision to help navigate the challenges of being a new RDN and trying to break into pediatrics (or just trying to get an internship!).
If you want to get the training you need without spending 1-2 years in the hospital, grab my FREE 4 steps to becoming a FABULOUS pediatric expert! Click Here
If you have questions, sign up for a FREE 20 minute discovery call and let’s see how we can work together!
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