A conversation with a dietetic intern

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Alex, a down-to-earth recent college graduate, is no stranger to working for what she wants. When she started college she was  in an athletic training program before she realized she was more interested in nutrition and using it as a way to  help others. 

Fast forward and the determined twenty something not only graduated with a BS in Applied Health Science from Indiana University but snagged a competitive internship through Andrews University.

Alex packed up her things, moved to a new state without knowing anyone and is working as a dietetic intern at Atrium Medical Center.

As if moving and starting an internship isn’t enough, Alex is also working on her Masters in public health and adopted a cat named Myrtle (pretty awesome, right?).

Here’s what an average day looks like for Alex.

During each day she sees patients, who may have nutritional deficits. She also does diet counseling if a patient needs to be on a specific diet when they go home.

On a normal day she will see and talk with 5-8 patients, document everything and work on projects or case studies.

The best part of her internship has been learning the ins and outs of being a registered dietician. She is completing the internship to be eligible for the registered dietitian board exam. Her ultimate goal is to become registered and become a dietitian. 

“There’s only so much you can learn in class, so it’s great to get some experience before actually having a job,” she said.

The internship has also helped confirm her interests in the field. She has found out she enjoys the clinical side of dietetics because it’s more hands-on.

How does she stay motivated? By knowing the internship is not only a great experience but also going to help with her career.

“I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m not going to be an unpaid intern forever, even though it feels like it sometimes…” she said.

Her proudest accomplishment is moving somewhere out of her comfort zone.

“I’m very much a creature of habit, so I was really nervous and anxious about moving to Ohio, but I’m so proud of myself for doing it,” she said.

Since college her schedule has changed. She said she finds she needs to study a lot more now, not just cram. She also goes to bed and wakes up earlier than she used to, even on weekends.

With the whirlwind of change adjustment, the twenty something has plenty of good advice for those experiencing something similar.

Something that keeps her going is knowing she made someone’s life better. Helping patients makes Alex feel like she is making a difference.

Advice she would give to others who want to get in to a similar field is to not freak out about internships. Although they’re competitive, decent grades, a genuine personal statement and some experiences raises someone’s chances of getting one.

Career advice she would give to twenty somethings is to “find something you like, and do that.”

“How can you do something you don’t like everyday for the next 40-50 years and still be a decent human being,” she said. “I don’t think that’s possible, at least for me. I’d end up being a hermit or troll that lives under the bridge.”

A look at some of the questions

How do you stick with it?

I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m not going to be an unpaid intern forever, even though it feels like it sometimes. Eventually, I will get paid. (Hopefully!)

Best advice you’ve ever received on your major or your area of interest?

This counts towards dietetics and also life in general, but my dad has told me countless times “The world doesn’t revolve around you, Aggie.” I get so caught up in working and learning and thinking about the menu I need to write later I forget people don’t go to the hospital because they were bored that day and thought they’d come visit. They’re there because of a severe illness, and they need help recovering. That kind of puts things in perspective. The first priority should be helping patients, and that’s something I have to remind myself often. (Sidenote: I don’t know why my dad calls my Aggie, but he’s called my that since I was born. It’s a weird nickname). 

What is your dream job?

As of right now, my dream job would be working with individuals struggling with eating disorders. I have a minor in psychology, and I really enjoyed those classes, so pairing psychology and nutrition would be a great asset when working with eating disorders.

Scariest thing you’ve ever done?

I accidentally walked into a tuberculosis patient’s room without a mask! (TB is contagious.) But probably moving to Ohio by myself. Before this year, I’d never lived anywhere where I didn’t know a single person, so that was a big deal for me. I’m only about three hours away from my family and friends, but I’m in a different state, so it definitely feels farther away.

Hardest part of your internship?

Getting up at the crack of dawn, and medications. I can never remember all the medications.

 What will you be doing after your internship?

After the internship, I’ll take a board exam to become registered, and hopefully find a job somewhere. I’d take a job anywhere at this point, as long as it pays me. 

Where do you see yourself in two years?

I should be an RD by then, if all goes according to plan, and hope to have a job in an area of dietetics I enjoy. I’ll also be finishing my master’s, which is exciting.


Read other conversations in the series here.

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Who says you can’t go home again?

I’m calling this chapter of my life Living With My Parents…Again.

No, this isn’t a written version of Matthew McConaughey’s Failure to Launch or Alexis Bledel’s Post Grad. There isn’t a witty narrator here glamorizing life as an aspiring writer and there isn’t a guy with Ryan Gosling’s face, David Beckham’s abs and Liam Neeson’s accent to sweep me off my feet.

I’m currently 23 and living in my old bedroom that is still painted a vibrant red and tropical orange, lit by a floor lamp with two out of five light bulbs working. My dog, Tess, is snoring and taking up 2/3 of my bed while I write on the remaining third.

When I accepted the job at the newspaper I was moving from a different state. I drove out of Pennsylvania on Saturday, got to my childhood home Sunday and started the new job  Monday. I put my things in my room and told myself it wouldn’t be long. Days turned in to weeks and weeks turned in to months, and I’m still living in my parent’s house.

I did everything I was supposed to. I excelled in high school; making sure I had the perfect balance of athletic and academic extracurricular activities. I went away to college and graduated with a journalism major and double minor in creative writing and english. I ended the summer of my senior year early and took an internship in a different state. I scavenged for writing jobs in New York and found it’s hard to get a foot in the door. I postponed New York and took a great newspaper job in my home state, which happened to be my local newspaper.

Why did I decide to go in to writing? Sometimes I know the answer and sometimes I don’t. Writing is hard. Writers are moody. Writers don’t make money. Yet there is something so powerful about finding the exact word, phrase for what you are trying to say.

As fate would have it my older brother, who has been living west for years, is back in our house, as well as he finishes the last stretch of his degree. It’s weird to be living in a house we grew up in when we are in our twenties. The dynamic is different, we no longer are teenagers who have curfew.

Although years have passed, we somehow are back under one roof. For better or worse I’m pretty much an optimist. I write a lot about experiences as a twenty something and this is one of them. No, my life isn’t completely together. I question my passion and profession at least once a week, but I keep coming back for more. The best thing about being a twenty something is knowing things don’t have to be perfect and my life doesn’t have to be together right now. I still have several more years in my twenties to work that out, right? Right.

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Ps. and I get to view sunsets like this in my background and see plays with my beautiful mother like I was able to do today.

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Broke: twenty-something debt

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Having debt as a twenty something can be overwhelming. Most of us are familiar with student loans, car payments, phone and credit card bills and $3.86/gallon gas prices.

We’re trying to live, find ourselves and succeed and now we have to worry about paying back thousands of dollars? Real cool, life, real cool.

A friend of mine is 23 years old, finishing his Masters in June and then possibly working to get his PHD. He explained how stressed out the thought of the debt made him.

He said the best advice he received on the subject lately was from his mother who told him “lets be honest no one can afford college these days. Price goes up and jobs get paid less and less.”

It’s very true. Society requires requests (using the term loosely) we get a job to receive income. Most jobs require a college degree or high school diploma and on top of that, jobs require experience, unless it’s an entry-level position. So we have to get a degree and get a job to get a job because the description says 1+ years experience — what a conundrum.  Along this riddle-filled road we rack up debt.

And since winning the lottery or marrying a millionaire isn’t in our twenty-something favor we have to learn to cope with it.

1.) Focus on the positives. a.) Your student loans are a sign you went to school. b.) Your job, even if it’s not your dream job, is helping ease some of the debt. c.) You’re young and it’s okay your life isn’t 100% together. No one expects it to be.

2.) You can lower your monthly bill. Income-based payment plans are a godsend. You can likely adjust bills, like student loans, based on your income.

3.) Still spend money. Sounds counter-productive, right? I’m not saying go buy spend hundreds of dollars in a shopping spree or $50 on a steak dinner you eat in less than 30 minutes, but you can still spend money. Be smart. Create a budget even. If you spend all your time working and never go to events, a movie matinée or out with friends you will be miserable. There are plenty of free/low-cost events, especially in the spring and summer.

4.) Find a stress reliever. Whether it’s yoga, running, throwing darts at cut-out faces, or listening to scream-o music, find a release. Find a time when your mind isn’t constantly thinking about work, money. Even if it’s for ten minutes.

5.) Breathe.  Give yourself a break. Set goals and reward yourself when you reach them. Laugh, smile, cry, exercise, nap, be lazy, be productive, read, talk, write, love, travel, be kind and live.

Do not let twenty something debt keep you back from living.

Week favorites

Here are some of my favorite things I’m reading, watching, looking forward to etc. at the moment (meaning this week, not this exact second).

Book I’m reading: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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What just played on my Itunes playlist: I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love Tonight by The Outfield

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Favorite inspirational sayings this week (I have two)

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Last magazine I purchased: March edition of Vogue; Beyoncé is on the cover

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Workout of the week: Complete body workout, a five-disk DVD collection by Jillian Michaels

Favorite Dr. Seuss quote (in honor of the March 2 birthday): “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

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Favorite “not impressed” face: President Obama and gymnast McKayla Maroney

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Last movie I saw in theater: Snitch

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Essie nail color: Butler, please

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Indiana University basketball will face Ohio State on senior night. Derek Elston, Christian Watford and Jordy Hulls are pictured below.

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And the moment that touched my heart this week: A high school basketball player threw the ball inbound to the opposing team’s manager, a boy with a developmental disability, so he could score a basket. It was a moment of true sportsmanship. The manager made the basket and the crowd rushed the court. It gave me chills.

Be nice, always: Advice from a fifth grader

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Today at work I was asked to retype letters from grade schoolers who won a county-wide essay contest. The winning essays are being published in our newspaper. The prompt asked children in kindergarten through sixth grade “What does giving your heart to the community mean to you?” Most of them talked about picking up trash and I was annoyed (Don’t get me wrong, picking up trash is a great thing to do, but after typing seven letters it. is. tedious.)

However, about nine letters in, I got to a letter written by a 11-year-old girl who had some advice to share and let me tell you, it was refreshing. She didn’t discuss picking up trash or planting a tree like some of the other papers did. She had some simple, very intelligent things to say. Some of them I’ll share below:

“Be nice to people and help people if they need help.”

“Make your town a great place to live in.”

“It is special to me that we do special things for people”

“Remember to always say nice things”

“Try to make today a better day than yesterday. You should think about that everyday… it’s also a good way of making friends.”

Whoever this girl is, thank you for being wise, even as a fifth grader. Being nice is important. Again, I know how important it is to volunteer and plant trees in the community etc. but it’s also important to be nice. To show kindness to others and help those in need. I’m going to follow this girls advice and try to make each day better than the last.