One of my most pinned posts of all time is an earlier posts about the day in the life of a dietetic intern. I love that there are so many interested dietetic professionals and students out there interested in hearing about my experiences! Since there has been such great interest in my previous post I thought I would share more, specifically about my experience of getting into a dietetic internship. (A dietetic intern is a post-undergrad student completing 1300+ hours of supervised practice and graduate level coursework to obtain eligibility to sit for the Registered Dietitian credentialing exam).
If you aren’t considering a career in the nutrition field or are not applying for this year’s dietetic internship match, you might not find today’s post too informational or applicable. However, if you ARE interested in becoming a nutrition professional or applying in this year’s match, this post is entirely for YOU!
My Journey to Match Day
After I graduated from my accredited undergrad program with a Bachelor of Science in nutrition, I decided to take some time to gain professional experience before applying for a dietetic internship. I wasn’t totally sure that the pathway to being a Registered Dietitian was right for me anymore, so I worked for an international AIDS nonprofit doing administrative work but quickly began feeling entirely unfulfilled. I wasn’t utilizing my passion for nutrition everyday and my lack of professional responsibilities weighed on me. I felt stuck, depressed and ready for change. AmeriCorps, sort of like the domestic PeaceCorps, had always been familiar to me since my sister had done two years of it, so it seemed like a natural fit for me. I wanted to help others and I wanted a change of scenery. So I left my job in Brooklyn, my home and family on the East Coast, and drove over a thousand miles to Kansas City, Missouri (where I am now!). I spent a year as a volunteer AmeriCorps Nutrition Education Specialist for a large food bank in the metro area, teaching low income children, adults and seniors basic nutrition and hands-on cooking classes. It was an exhausting year to say the least – but also the most gratifying. I was actively making a difference in the lives of so many people who I otherwise would have never met and gained incredible public-speaking, community engagement, and culinary skills to carry over into my work as a nutrition professional. After my AmeriCorps term ended, I began working as Healthy Eating Specialist at Whole Foods Market where I continued to educate the public on healthy eating through culinary classes, store tours, etc. As much as I loved that job, I always felt a little insecure of my role and expertise, especially when people would ask me about my schooling. I had a Bachelors degree in nutrition, but I still didn’t feel like a total expert or comfortable talking with customers about disease specific topics. I KNEW that I wanted to have RD next to my name and I wanted to continue to learn.
HOW MATCH DAY WENT (OR DIDN’T…)
After months of working on my personal statement and getting advice from my undergraduate professors, I clicked submit on my DICAS application and almost had a heart attack. Did I spell dietitian wrong? Did I forget to attach something important? What if it didn’t go through? I was fairly confident that I would get matched because of my work experience in the field, encouraging references, and deeply thought out personal statement. I knew I was a qualified, competitive candidate and would be a successful intern. In the period between submission and Match Day I even had two phone interviews for two separate internships (I had applied to five programs). My confidence in getting matched to a program grew. I still remember Match Day vividly, even though it was almost two years ago. G and I were sitting on the couch and whenever I logged into the server to check my status it wouldn’t connect due to the sheer magnitude of people trying to log on and check themselves. Fast forward four hours later into the evening where there was a lot of tears, darkness, and ignored phone calls: I hadn’t been matched. I spent the evening wallowing in my misery, thinking horrible dark thoughts. I allowed myself only one night to fall victim to depression and self-loathing and decided to be proactive and not accept Match Day as final for my future.
HOW I FOUND MY DIETETIC INTERNSHIP
I woke up the next morning and contacted my undergraduate advisors, who were incredibly supportive and also in disbelief of my matchlessness. They began forwarding me emails from internship directors who still had a few spots to fill in their programs. I contacted four programs who still had intern spots but I quickly learned that their geographic locations, timeframes, or prerequisites wouldn’t work for me. The last internship director I contacted was from Sage College’s distance track internship. I hadn’t originally applied to any distance track internships so I was unsure about it, but I sent over my application via email anyways. I wasn’t really in a place to be picky or turn down good possibilities. I WANTED to be a dietitian and I didn’t want to postpone it any longer. If it was meant to be, it would work out.
36 hours after Match Day I had a secure spot in a distance track dietetic internship class. Finally, it was happening! Just not the way I had originally planned…
DEALING WITH PLAN B
I can’t even begin to describe the ups and downs I felt during the days leading up to and after Match Day. It was a complete whirlwind of emotions. Plan B was scary. Sure, I had a spot in an internship class and was one step closer to my dream, but there were all sorts of unforseen stressors and things to do that I wouldn’t have had to deal with had my Plan A worked out. For example, I had to find my own preceptors in order for my internship to truly work out. You can’t be a dietetic intern without having the supervised practice piece! There were many moments during the months leading up to my internship’s start date that I called my mom crying. I couldn’t find hospitals willing to take me because they were committed to other internships or were too understaffed to take on an intern. I was constantly chasing leads that weren’t working out. When the internship started, I still hadn’t secured a food service management site for Spring semester. I also underestimated how hard it was to learn independently and take graduate level online courses, especially after being three years out of college.
I took each day in stride. I allowed myself to have a personal life. My “Plan B” was a tough year emotionally, financially, and academically but it also turned out to be even better than what I had ever imagined my Plan A to be like! My writing was published in other cities. My professors supported my blog efforts and were an incredible resource of knowledge to continue my learning. My preceptors all worked out (phew!) and I realized that I was lucky to have been able to pick my own preceptor sites rather than have a school dictate where and who I would learn from. I was able to spend my community rotation on an organic farm and intern in clinical and food service settings that had never had an intern before. My preceptors were excited to work with me and have a mutually beneficial relationship – they were excited to learn something from a young nutrition professional!
TODAY, A REGISTERED DIETITIAN
Looking back, it doesn’t matter that I wasn’t originally matched. My path was diverted but I made it and am incredibly proud to now be a Registered Dietitian. I am forever grateful for my dietetic internship director and all of my preceptors, who saw (and heard!) my potential and unwavering passion. I am beyond happy with my experience as a distance dietetic intern and am glad that I was granted Plan B instead of Plan A. My experiences through the whole process, though oftentimes stressful, allowed me to learn more about myself than ever before. The challenges are what shape us, right?
To all of you applying for an internship for the first or second time, I wish you all the luck in the world! Please, please, please, DO NOT give up on your dream and don’t EVER think you are less than just because it may take you longer to get there. Remember that every single credentialed dietitian out there had to learn the exact same things…no matter your internship or the journey it takes to to get there, it’ll bring you to the place you want to be and instill incredible knowledge and personal growth along the way.
Cheers to the journey! I would absolutely LOVE for you to comment below if you’ve shared a similar experience or would love to hear more about my dietetic internship track.