Spending the first third of my dietetic internship in clinical was great. I really got a great handle on medical nutrition therapy, dealing with patients, learning hospital policies, and getting the lingo down for writing up my notes. I got very comfortable in that setting used to the daily routines. But when my next two rotations were within the community section of the internship I really had a complete 180 degree spin from my clinical setting. My initial idea of what the community rotations would entail was far short of what I got to experience. I loved both rotations and really got to learn a completely different side of nutrition.
I spent 4 weeks total, really getting into and knowing my community here in DC, Maryland and Northern VA. My first rotation was with the Food Supplement Nutrition Education program (FSNE) and the second rotation was with Food and Friends located in DC. I originally thought community nutrition just consisted of going into school or other community settings and giving a quick lecture on healthy eating and proper nutrition. Wrong!
Now that I've completed the 4 weeks of community I've realized that these dietitians and the rest of their staff really are a lot more than community educators. Especially at Food and Friends, the dietitians and staff are not only educators, but they are friends and a much needed life line. At a hospital the patients may or may not want your input on their diet and lifestyle or want your advice. But many times the client's in the community center not only want your knowledge, but are happy to get it, happy to see your face, happy to know your there to help them. Because sometimes there is no one else to help them.
Being a community dietitian is so much more than the MNT we are all so used to. You need a big heart, patience and strength too. It's a hard position to hold, but the dietitians I shadowed at both FSNE and Food and Friends are incredibly passionate and love their job and their clients. It really opened my eyes and heart to a whole new side of nutrition...and a whole new side to my community that I never knew. I truly have a new appreciation for nutrition and the needs of my local community. It was an inspiring 4 weeks and I'm excited to be able to help even more once I get my RD!