The Life of a Dietetic Intern: Food Service Week 3

So this is the week of internship that finally almost killed me! Let’s talk, friends.

Here’s the thing about the dietetic internship – there are no sick days. We’re really lucky that the program at Life U gives us a some really generous vacation breaks for major holidays, but many programs don’t. It’s unrealistic and unfortunate for interns to be expected to be superhuman for 10ish months, but that’s the reality of it y’all. The lack of ability to take time off is stressful enough if you get the flu, but it’s a unique kind of nightmare when you have a chronic condition.

I’ve had migraines since I was a little kid. I’m lucky enough that, for most of my life, my migraines have been just on the right side of tolerable that I’m still able to lead a relatively normal life. That is, however, until I developed a stomach ulcer from the ibuprofen I used almost daily for years to control them. Thanks, doctor who told me this was an okay treatment plan! You’re the best!

So around the same time I started the internship last year, I also started a new treatment plan for my migraines. Things went okay at first, but soon I started having migraines every day. After a few months of being on the new meds (it often takes that long for them to work, so I wanted to give it a good shot), the migraines became more severe to the point that my acute pain meds didn’t even work anymore. And then, this week, I got sick.

It was just a nasty cold, but combined with the stress of the internship and the daily migraines, I wasn’t able to keep down any food or water; by Wednesday evening I was so dehydrated, hypotensive, and racked with pain that I ended up in urgent care. I kind of felt like I was finally being inducted into the Official Migraine Club when the doctor said I’d be getting an IV infusion of the pain medication Toradol – I’d somehow made it over 20 years of having migraines without one! Honestly it’s kind of an achievement.

Hey Carol at Wellstar East Cobb Urgent Care, thanks for taking such good care of me!

Luckily I have a preceptor who’s super understanding and allowed me to work from home through all of this – but I had to work from home through all of this. I’m just hoping that maybe down the road we can throw in a few sick days for interns so we have time to be human? A lot of us have health conditions that got us interested in dietetics in the first place. Hell, a lot of us have families, or tend to get sick during the winter, or accidentally eat spoiled yogurt and need a day or two to recover. Maybe when us Baby Interns grow up into Big Kid Dietitians, we can try to make things better and more realistic for the interns of the future.

Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox and focus on what I can control (a much healthier way to live, amiright?), which is myself =)

I don’t have a clear solution for how I could have prevented this from happening because I really tried not to push myself, but when you have migraines every single day you kind of have to push yourself or life will pass you by. Staying home every time I felt horrible wasn’t an option I liked, nor was it super possible without having major implications on my progress through the internship. BUT, I do have some good news to tack on to the end of this bummer of a week – since all of this happened, I’ve started taking this magnesium supplement, and unlike others I’ve taken in the past, this one has been a game changer for me! Since the day I started taking it I haven’t had a single migraine; in fact, this is the longest I’ve gone without a migraine in years. I’m not saying I’m cured – that’s not how it works – but this is a huge improvement! This supplement is better absorbed by the gut than other forms, and magnesium has been studied for quite a while for its role in migraine treatment. So if you also have migraines, it might be worth a shot!

Lessons Learned This Week

  • If you have a chronic condition, talk with your program director about it up front. See what options you have if anything comes up and be honest about time you need for routine doctor’s visits and tests.
  • You are not just a superhuman intern – you’re a person too. If you’re sick, be honest with your preceptor. Odds are they don’t want you to come in and get everyone sick anyway and will figure out a way to make things work where you can still get your hours and not kill yourself.
  • Everything is temporary. This is important for interns to remember (you’ll be done in less than a year!), and it’s important for people with chronic conditions to remember (symptoms don’t last forever). I get so scared sometimes when I feel a migraine coming on because I think what if it never goes away this time?, but it always does. Sometimes it takes longer than others, but inevitably it always passes. ❤

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