Hi friends! As my dietetic internship winds down, I want to pass along a few helpful tips to all future dietetic interns. The dietetic internship is a wonderful opportunity for you to grow as a professional, but it’s also an opportunity for you to network with potential future employers. The best advice I received was to view the dietetic internship process as a 9-month interview. Here are a few of my own tips:
1. Make a good first (and last) impression
At the start of your internship or rotation, make sure you have communicated (at least a week ahead if time) with your preceptor regarding your start day/time/meeting location. You’ll also want to make sure that he or she is familiar with your background (aka attach your resume). I always included a sentence asking if I should review anything prior to the start of my new rotation. This demonstrates that you’re organized, prepared, and ready to learn.
When you’re done with your rotation, write your preceptor a hand-written thank you note. I also always bought my preceptor something small – whether that was a bouquet of flowers, a coffee, or a homemade treat. Preceptors graciously volunteer their time to help train us and they deserve to be recognized for their generosity.
2. Ask educated questions
Asking questions shows interest and eagerness to learn more. Preceptors love to share their knowledge – just make sure your questions are educated. If you need a reminder of something that can be found in a textbook, do the legwork and look it up yourself. When you do have a question for your preceptor, make sure it’s a question that shows you’ve thought about the information and are trying to critically apply it.
3. Brush up on some studying if you have to
When I first started my clinical internship, I started on a floor that treated a very specific patient population. I spent a few weekends reviewing some information about my patient population, taking notes, and printing out handouts for my clinical notebook. When it came time to for my preceptor to review my performance, he/she mentioned that he/she could tell that I had devoted extra time to studying. It was rewarding to receive positive feedback, and it also sent a message that I’m dedicated to learning the information and skills that I need to be a better future dietitian.
4. Admit when you don’t know something
There is nothing more frustrating (or obvious) than someone who is pretending to know more than they actually do. As dietetic interns, we’re not expected to know everything. When we train, we’re bound to make mistakes, or come across situations when we don’t know what to do. Respect yourself, your preceptor, and your patients enough to admit when you don’t know something. Ask for help – that’s the beauty of the dietetic internship!
Also, remember that the internship period is a time when we’re given a little more ‘grace’ for not knowing something, so this really is the best time to ask. If you don’t ask now, you may start a full time job and still have the same question – only this time, it may not be appropriate for you to NOT know the answer.
5. Let your personality shine
In any work environment, your coworkers can make or break your job. Be the intern that your preceptor and his/her coworkers want to be around. Say hello and goodbye when you leave the office. Ask what people like to do for fun. Really listen if you get the opportunity to learn more about someone, and ask them follow-up questions a few days later to show that you were listening. Building positive, real, authentic relationships with the staff at your rotation sites will immensely benefit you in the long-run. If you were able to match into a dietetic internship, or get accepted into a competitive coordinated dietetics program, it’s likely that you’re capable of building upon your skill set for a particular job. However, if you have a personality that doesn’t work well with others, or turns people off, that is much harder to change.
6. Welcome constructive criticism
It’s rare to have a 9-month period in which we’re constantly receiving feedback. Once we start our careers, the opportunities for peer review decline. It’s so important to take advantage of the resources you have in front of you and learn what you can improve upon. Yes, I will admit that constructive criticism can be hard to swallow at times, but I have only ever grown and improved after I’ve implemented some suggested changes.
7. Self-reflect and communicate your reflections with your preceptor(s)
Critically reflect on your positive and negative patient interactions. What went well? What can be improved? If you have the opportunity, share your reflections with your preceptor. Reflection helps us think about our strengths and weaknesses, and once again, shows that you’re self-aware and constantly working to better yourself and your skills as a clinician.
8. Go the extra mile
Say yes to opportunities to learn more. Take on projects that your rotation site identifies. Arrive early, stay late. This is the time to show how dedicated you are – to leave a lasting impression – so that if/when a potential job opportunity comes up, you’ll be the first to come to mind.
Anyone else have tips they’d like to share? Leave them in the comments section below!
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