Halloween is right around the corner and it doesn’t just mean candy and a toothache for me, but the end of my 10-week clinical rotation at Medstar Union Memorial Hospital. When I learned that my first rotation in the dietetic internship would be clinical, excitement wasn’t exactly the first thing that came to mind, but instead absolute PANIC. Don’t get me wrong, I live and breathe for the clinical setting, but learning that I would have no prep time for homework or become mentally prepared almost had me admitted as a patient. But I am here to tell you that with a few Chakra breathing techniques and my survival tips, you too will feel like a clinical superstar!
1. Strive for improvement, not perfection.
Obviously this is easier said than done and chances are you are a type A personality just like myself, but what you are not is a Registered Dietitian with 30 years of experience under your belt. This concept took awhile to sink in, but after 8 weeks I think I finally understand. There is a reason this is the longest rotation of them all, the information to learn is endless, but your time here is not. As a dietetic intern, many of us believe that when we leave here we need to know everything ever written by ASPEN or in the nutrition care manual to be successful, but this all comes with time. Take a deep breath - it will all be okay.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
While in your clinical rotation any time you’re not seeing patients, scribbling down every little thing the dietitian is doing, completing homework, or burying your head in a textbook, you will be most likely trying to make sense of every little thing you have learned and still have questions. We are the nutrition experts we should want to know as much as possible to do the best job we can, but that doesn’t mean we will know everything. So much of why we complete such an extensive clinical rotation is because we couldn’t possibly learn everything we need to know from a textbook – practicing is learning too! Just when I think I’ve got diabetes education down to a science, some loop hole exception never mentioned in my textbook applies, but hey now I know next time.
3. Be proactive!
Since day one of my internship the phrase, “this is a 10-month interview” has been engrained in my brain. For the past 8 weeks, I have had the opportunity to work with three amazing dietitians who have taught me so much and gone out of the way to answer any questions I have, the least I can do is offer to help them with any additional work big or small. Not only have I worked on my clinical skills with patients, but also I have had the opportunity to work with the wellness guru herself and assist in superfood sampling and food demos – did anyone say fabulous free food?
4. Do NOT procrastinate.
I repeat, do NOT procrastinate! Did you get that? Your clinical rotation specifically requires a lot of brain power and focus in and out of the hospital and keeping up with weekly assignments is a must. You’re probably thinking 10 weeks? Pshh plenty of time to do my weekly homework assignments, quizzes, case studies, and any other projects I may have going on – think again. This isn’t college where you have endless breaks and can rush an assignment before class, planning is key and procrastination will only lead to increased stressed, sleepless nights, and tired eyes. Simple enough, do it right and on time, you won’t regret it.
5. Have Fun!
Okay, okay, enough of the fearful messages, remember to have fun! As nervous as I was for my clinical rotation, I could not have been more excited to be working in a hospital and acting as am ‘almost’ Registered Dietitian. I have met so many wonderful people from patients to dietitians to kitchen staff, I am so thankful to have had such an amazing experience and am sad to go.
At the end of the day you are here to learn and complete the next stepping stone in becoming Registered Dietitian. Life is scary as it is, your clinical rotation doesn’t have to be!