Everyone comes into the internship with different skills, experiences, and strengths. Each intern also has areas in which they can improve. As for me, I was excited for each rotation but was particularly nervous about clinical. I’ve volunteered in a hospital before but never shadowed an RD—I mainly just listened to patients complain about the food during meal rounds. I had a lot of concerns before my rotation at Harbor Hospital started: should I go over my notes and try to memorize everything I learned in MNT? What if I forget the different nutritional requirements for each disease state? What are the PPN/TPN equations again?
With all of these questions building up during my first two rotations, I felt pretty anxious driving to my first day last week. My only homework assignment was to come up with a list of strengths and weaknesses for clinical. My strengths seemed to focus on personality traits and work ethic while my weaknesses were…everything clinical. While I was waiting for my preceptor to meet me in the visitor lobby at Harbor, I remembered something my friend told me years ago. She had told me that no matter how scared I am about something new, that I should always say “yes” to every opportunity that comes my way. Even if I fail miserably, I’ll learn a great deal about myself and may be surprised at how much I like something that I initially feared.
Keeping her advice in mind, I went through my day with a much more positive outlook. Okay, so maybe I don’t remember everything from undergrad but that’s why my preceptor wanted me to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses. I could use my current skills and knowledge to improve on everything I was worried at the beginning: energy and protein requirements, nutritional needs, equations, bedside manner, etc.
During my first week, I said “yes” to every opportunity to learn, even if I wasn't really sure what I was getting myself into. I shadowed in ICU on my first day, learned how to screen using the malnutrition diagnoses criteria, and even began following up with patients on my own by the end of the week. Even though a lot of terminology and abbreviations sound like a foreign language to me (especially during rounds with the medical interns), it allows me to set learning goals for myself during my time at Harbor.
I am also very fortunate to work with an awesome team of dietitians who are not only aware that I have little to no clinical experience but are very enthusiastic to make the best out of my 8-10 weeks. The first time I talked to a patient, I received great feedback on what went well and what I can work on to make the next encounter better. I’ve asked more questions than I can count but it doesn’t seem to faze the RDs at all. And embracing new opportunities for learning and growth is wonderful because it doesn’t give you the time to be afraid. You’re so busy becoming a better RD that you forget to be nervous. Even though I started clinical with butterflies in my stomach, I am already enjoying myself more than I imagined. I can’t wait for what my second week (and the rest of the rotation) has to offer.