AND National Preceptor Month

Here in April the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is celebrating all of the preceptors that help dietetic interns during their year long rotation. You may not know, but to become a Registered Dietitian you have to complete a year long, accredited internship. This process involves an application and matching process. So not all of the applicants who apply will get matched to an internship rotation site. It is a competitive process. During that internship year, you participate in different rotation sites and gain a variety of different experiences working with a variety of dietitians. All those people who help to teach future dietitians are an amazing group of preceptors. I have been impacted by such great preceptors during my internship back in 2010. I am still friends with some of those dietitians and I am so thankful that they were willing to take the time to teach me. 

Most professions now that internships or other similar programs where professionals work to students to help teach them. I think this is such a great way to learn. As a professional, in any career area, I encourage you to volunteer and take a student. Work with them and encourage them as they go through schooling. Your work and time teaching these students help to create great employees in the future. 

Eat Right Preceptors and Mentors  

I included this graph above of the supply and demand of dietetic internships since 1993 until 2015. The yellow line on top is the dietetic students that are graduating from college. The blue line is the number of dietetic internship applicants. The green line is the number of dietetic internship applicants who are actually matched. I thought it was helpful to see that there are lots of students graduating with nutrition degrees, but a far less number actually become Registered Dietitian. In terms of the job market and preventing over-saturating the market, I am ok with this, but I think it is that much more important to work with these students and help create the best dietitians in our work force. 

I have enjoyed working with the Coordinated Program in Dietetics through Purdue since I completed my internship back in 2011. I have been a preceptor for the last 7 years. I have also gotten to work with some IUPUI students and Ball State students over the years. It is rewarding to get to see these students learn and gain confidence. It is also exciting to be able to teach them about my passion for nutrition. I also love seeing these students apply and land their first jobs. It is neat to get to be part of that process and stay in touch with those students. 

If you work in an area where you can serve as a preceptor and help teach students, take advantage of those opportunities. Thank you to all those Registered Dietitians who have served as preceptors over the years and for those who helped me get to where I am today as well. You all are amazing! 

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My Nutrition Journey

I thought that it might be fun to have today's post focus on my nutrition journey to where I am today. Most of the time I am writing about interesting nutrition topics (that are near and dear to my heart), but I thought I might give you a little back story about my own journey to becoming a NICU dietitian.

I initially was interested in OT/PT in high school, but after job shadowing several PTs and working in a nursing home once a week for a semester in high school, I decided that wasn't for me. It didn't really enjoy touching people that much. I kind of preferred keeping my distance from the patients that I was working with. My mother encouraged me to look into nutrition and specifically dietetics. She kept telling me that having a credential, like the letters RDN after my name, would open up lots of doors for me. She was right! I went to Purdue and double majored in Dietetics and Nutrition, Fitness & Health. I was most interested in sports nutrition and that is where I wanted to work. I wanted to help athletes optimize their nutrition to improve their performance. After completely 4 years at Purdue, I did my internship through the Purdue Coordinated Program and graduated in August of 2011. After the completion of my internship, I took the RD Exam and passes and started working at St Elizabeth Hospital in Lafayette, IN. I originally wanted a job in sports nutrition, but quickly realized those positions were few and far between. Lots of them preferred a Master's degree as well. I decided that getting a job, starting to earn money and gaining work experience would be most worth my time. Unfortunately, a Master's in nutrition doesn't guarantee that you make significantly more money.

I started working at St Elizabeth hospital and covered the cardiac, pediatric and NICU units. I also worked in outpatient pediatrics. This is where my love for pediatric nutrition started to develop. I really enjoyed being able to make nutrition changes and see the changes within a few days. I really loved working in pediatric outpatient and developing a relationship with those patients. After almost 3 years, I took a new job in Indianapolis, IN at St Vincent Women's Hospital working in the NICU. This was a huge leap of faith for me, but it has proven to be such a blessing. I knew that I enjoyed the NICU, but I being able to work in pediatric critical care full time has been such an amazing experience. I love being able to work with these critically ill patients, provide them with the best nutrition and then watch them grow, over come the odds and thrive to go home with their families. 

Photo taken by our pediatric surgeon (Evan Kokoska) for an album The People of Peyton Manning Children's Hospital.

Photo taken by our pediatric surgeon (Evan Kokoska) for an album The People of Peyton Manning Children's Hospital.

I have been able to do so many neat things over the years. I have been at St Vincent's Women's Hospital now for almost 4 years (as of April). I have had the opportunity work with lots of amazing people. I was able to give a talk at the Indiana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Conference (IAND) last year on NICU Nutrition and the role of the RD in the NICU. I have been able to serve on the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (AND) Test Writing Committee for the new Certified Specialist in Pediatrics and Critical Care Exam (CSPCC). I had the opportunity to write a chapter in a Nutrition Communication book that will be published in the next year through the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. I have been able to serve on the IAND State Board on the Nomination Committee and exited to be on the local CIAND Board this upcoming year. I have been able to mentor lots of interns and excited to see them pursue their dreams as RDs. I have worked with amazing people and I am so excited for what is ahead for my career. 

Looking back on it, I am so thankful to have parents who cared about my future. Who pushed me to pursue my interests, paid to put me through school and supported me as I took leaps of faith with job and opportunity that has come my way. I have been a Registered Dietitian for 6 1/2 years and it has been such a fun journey!