The Life of a Dietetic Intern: LTAC Week 1

Before we get started, what is LTAC??? This is a term I heard thrown around a lot in my clinical rotations and I finally found out it stands for Long Term Acute Care. Patients who need significant medical support for an extended period of time go to LTAC, so the people here are typically on a ventilator and are being fed via enteral or parenteral nutrition. The goal is to get them weaned off of both of these things before they either go home or get transferred to a different facility.

My first day at my new rotation was a bit of a shock because this facility only has about 20 beds, and I’m coming from a hospital that had over 800! I’m used to getting records done as fast as I can and seeing up to 12 patients a day, so it took my brain a few days to slow down. Now that I’m used to it I really love the slower pace because it gives me time to really go through a patient’s record, write a thorough note, and spend more time in the room if necessary. Plus my preceptor is great and everyone in the kitchen is super friendly! The chef even insisted on making me two crepes for breakfast on my second day which was just what I needed to feel more at home. Free breakfast, lunch, and Starbucks every day? Yes please.

The frequent change in rotation sites is definitely proving to be one of the more challenging parts of the internship. Most of us have probably had jobs before and know how it feels to be the new person at work … it’s uncomfortable and a little scary as you struggle to find your place with your new coworkers who already know each other. With the internship, as soon as I get comfortable it’s time to start somewhere new! But hey, it really is good experience to learn how to be resilient and adaptable. I usually take a while to warm up to people (like, months), but with this rotation I’m playing around with opening up to others much sooner. Again, it’s scary, but I get to choose to be whoever I want to be with each rotation, and this time I’m choosing to be someone who makes friends easily and quickly!

First-day-of-a-new-rotation face

Aside from starting a new rotation, this week was complicated by my car breaking down and finding abandoned kitties at my husband’s job. The good news is that my car is now fixed (thank you American Express … ouch) and the kitties found a temporary home at the animal hospital I used to work at years ago. I am SO grateful they took the little babies in for me because they still needed to be bottle fed and stimulated to pee and poop, and we simply don’t have the capacity to foster little kitties right now no matter how adorable and squishy they may be.

And now to get real … the financial part of this internship process is really starting to weigh on me. My husband and I have already done so much to cut our expenses and yet life keeps throwing things at us, as tends to happen when you’re … alive. Car repairs, vet bills, medical expenses, paying to feed random baby kitties expensive formula, and just the costs of being a human continue whether I’m making money or not, and to be honest I really don’t handle financial issues well. It causes me constant anxiety to not have enough money. I keep telling myself this is all temporary and that once I’m an RD I’ll be able to pay off these exorbitant student loans and the emergency credit cards that have to be used all too often, but damn is it hard to trust the process. Money stuff is scary, and we still have one income and are living with my in-laws! I can’t imagine what single people do during the internship.

These are all things you hear as a student and think you’ll be prepared for, and then they become your reality. Remember my mantra “It’s temporary”? Well, I’m saying that extra vehemently this week. This millennial financial crisis is real y’all …

I hope that doesn’t scare you, but again, my goal is to be honest about my experience in the internship and this is a really big part of it. If you can mentally handle working during school and while completing your internship, do it. But if you’re like me and find that your soul is sucked out of you when you try to juggle too many things … I don’t know what to tell you. It’s going to be hard. All I can say is this is the final leg of the journey and hell if we came this far to back out because of some money anxiety! We can do this =)

Realizing they spelled dietician with a ‘C’ almost made me pee my pants on Thursday

Lessons Learned This Week:

  • Small hospitals rule. Having adequate time to spend with patients rules. Free food rules.
  • Sometimes there won’t be a great solution to my problems, and I can either have anxiety about it or learn to surrender to it. Currently anxiety is winning, but I’m working on it.
  • Don’t burn bridges. You never know when you’ll need former colleagues to foster baby kitties for you (or you know, some other favor).
  • And a lesson relearned – if you think you need 8 reference books for your rotation, bring them. Don’t be afraid to look like a huge dork if it helps you learn.

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