The Life of a Dietetic Intern: Orientation Week 1

In undergrad, I consumed every bit of information I could find about the dietetic internship, and I STILL felt like I had no idea what to expect. Part of this is because every internship program is so different, and everyone’s experience is different. Another part of it is that all anyone talks about are their clinical rotations – what about food service? Community? Orientation? Projects? Homework? AHH!

I’m going to do my best to share with you the ins and outs of the dietetic internship, because the more you know, they more prepared you’ll be. Again, every program is different, and there are some things I can’t share (HIPAA, you know the drill). But here’s my experience – feel free to share yours too in the comments below, or ask any questions you have!

My “derp I’m really doing this now” face


If you’re in school and/or applying to the internship right now, here’s something to hold on to – the morning of the first day of my internship was MAGICAL. Getting ready and putting on my professional clothes, getting into the car with my professional work bag (no more backpacks for me!), walking into the building knowing that I had earned that degree … it all felt so good. Also surreal, because I had been working towards this moment for four years and here it was. I had made it, and I could relax just a little bit.

I knew the first few weeks would be didactic (y’all, that means classroom time – I still didn’t know this until the director told us on day one), so I was prepared for powerpoints and lectures. Unfortunately, I was not prepared enough – this was not like school. Mostly because we were in class ALL DAY – 9am to 3pm on our butts in the dark. Luckily some of the presentations were more interactive, and next week we’ll have some hands-on learning.

Day 1 with our fearless leaders

As an intern, you’re kind of in this weird limbo between a student and a professional – you know a lot, but you also don’t know a lot. That meant we were thrown a ton of information that was also pretty technical, because we’re past the plain-language stuff at this point. Lots of abbreviations, medical terminology, and recalling “basic” info we learned over the past several years. It took all of us a minute to get back into the swing of things, but the knowledge was still in there underneath the foggy summer brain.

Throughout the week we refreshed on the nutrition care process, food service management, oncology, cardiology, motivational interviewing, HIPAA, professionalism, school nutrition … and I’m probably forgetting some others! It was an onslaught of information. We also learned what will be expected of us as far as homework and projects throughout the internship – here’s an idea of what you might be expected to do outside of rotations:

  • A case study project and presentation
  • A social marketing campaign (cool right?)
  • Practice exams for each of the three domains (clinical, community, food service)
  • Several modules for clinical covering general med, critical care, cardiology, endocrinology, oncology, etc.
  • A clinical quiz
  • A giant food service module with calculations galore
  • A food service quiz
  • Plus the various projects assigned by each rotation, especially in community

I started to see why they suggest we don’t work during the internship – you’re basically a full-time employee and a full-time student.

My lunch on Tuesday was so pathetic it made me giggle hysterically

I was put into the delightful position of having to move out of my house in the two weeks leading up to the start of my internship, so my meal prep game wasn’t at the level it normally is (which is not that great anyway, let’s be honest), so I ended up throwing whatever was in the fridge into my lunch bag each day. Luckily they fed us a few meals throughout the week, and dietetic interns always have food they want to share! Next week I’ll have to be more on top of my food game … let’s see if that happens …

Thursday was a great day because not only did I find out my first rotation, I got to see some of my favorite people at the Greater Atlanta Dietetic Association social! Some of us from the internship went, along with our director and coordinator. It was a great chance to get to know them and see my friends in other internships throughout the state! I really should have networked more (or at all), but I had so much fun and loved seeing my sweet beautiful friends.

My Nerds For Life from the left: Alicia, me, Allie, and Jenn!

Friday we had a medical terminology quiz, which I studied for for about a week or so. Luckily for me I worked for five years as a veterinary technician at a teaching hospital and know my way around anatomy and medical abbreviations. I think I did pretty well, but keep reminding myself this is not school anymore! No GPA, no letter grades, just pass or fail.

Next week will be more orientation and we’ll also find out the remainder of our schedule for the internship. My first rotation will be in clinical at a hospital, which I’m super excited about! I also found out that my food service rotation will also be in a hospital, which is what I was hoping for!

Right now I have so much swimming around in my head as far as things I need to do and yes, it is extremely overwhelming. This experience is not like any other I’ve had, and I’m still feeling out what’s expected of me and how to navigate my way though it.

I consciously made the decision that I do not want to approach the internship in the same way I approached undergrad. I really put my mental health on the back burner for most of those four years which was a huge mistake. I let my perfectionism and anxiety get way out of control and consume me. Not anymore friend! I meditated each morning when I woke up and then again either when I got home if I was feeling rattled or before bed. I brought calming essential oils with me in my bag to use throughout the day (I was not the only one with this idea – I love RD2Be’s!), made sure I drank enough water and ate enough food, and spent time outside on my breaks. I also started taking a multivitamin (Smarty Pants Women’s Formula, I really like these!) because I know I might not have as much time to prepare and eat fresh food.

So far, so good! I’m excited to see what the next week brings, and then after that, rotations start! I’m pretty nervous but also excited to get started. I’ll fill you in next week!

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