I completed my internship through Virginia Tech, which actually has two internship classes: one based in Blacksburg and one based in Northern Virginia. While I was actually located in Winchester, VA during the internship (75 minutes west of the central class site of the internship), the internship director was more than accommodating of my situation and used it to broaden the horizons of the program... all of my rotations were based in and around Winchester, with many being in walking distance of my home. Lucky me!
I was married and returned from my honeymoon exactly 2 days before the start of the internship. Yes, it was stressful. The internship began with a two week orientation which went over internship expectations, a review of clinical nutrition, and general skill-building activities. That left me driving to NOVA (2+ hrs round trip) every day for two weeks. Not fun, but it was temporary and I pushed through it! Here's a quick overview of what I did for each of my rotations.
I completed my 16 week clinical rotation at Winchester Medical Center. While my main preceptor was the Director of Nutrition Therapy, I worked with each of the dietitians for 1-2 weeks to experience a little bit of everything: NICU and ICU, post-op, diabetes, oncology and renal nutrition. During my clinical rotation, I also gave a case study presentation on pancreatitis after following a patient extensively for 6 weeks (yes, that's how long they were hospitalized!). It was pretty neat following a patient from being tube fed in the ICU to giving them nutrition education prior to their departure!
I completed two, one-month long community nutrition rotations, one at a WIC Clinic (Women Infants and Children) and the other at the Valley Health Wellness Center. Of course, I adored working at the wellness center, where I did individualized nutrition counseling for a variety of things from eating disorder patients to weight loss to heart healthy eating. Some unique activities I participating in included a book review and presentation on Intuitive Eating; the design and implementation of a display on the benefits of exercise for youth for a local wellness festival and a talk show radio interview on healthy choices for the new year. At the WIC clinic, I spent the majority of my time shadowing nutritionists who would work with program participants to provide nutritional counseling in regards to healthy weight gain during pregnancy, healthy weight gain for their young children, prevention of anemia, etc. I also played a role in the initiation of a community breast feeding program and a local initiative called 9-5-2-1-0 For Health!, which aimed to reduce overweight and obesity rates in youth in the Shenandoah Valley.
My Food Service Management rotation was spent with Frederick County Public Schools. I assisted with menu design and analysis, food production, scheduling and ordering and designed and implemented a themed meal at a local high school. It was in the production of this theme meal that I truly gained an appreciation for food service and solidified my love for food preparation (whether it be for myself or others!) I was able to spend some quality time in the kitchen while preparing for my Pi Day (3.14.12) Themed Meal, which included fresh made pizzas, whoopie pies (yum!), quiche and chicken pot pie. It was a ton of fun!!
During this rotation we also visited PolyFace farms near Staunton, VA as an internship class. This was definitely a unique opportunity to be hands on with the production of food straight from the original source. I truly gained a greater appreciation for the energy and resources it takes to produce happy, healthy animals while maintaining an environmental friendly farm.
With our program we were able to choose a two week elective rotation. Naturally, I choose to return to Blacksburg for my elective and worked with the Director of Sports Nutrition within the Virginia Tech Department of Athletics! Yes, this was an amazing experience and I'm thankful I had the opportunity to experience it for a short period (while visiting Blacksburg of course!) Among other things, I conducted body fat analysis of athletes with the Bod Pod, worked in the Nutrition Oasis providing post-workout fuel, completed a case study, researched approved supplements and provided nutrition education and counseling to a football player.
The internship was without a doubt stressful at times, but I enjoyed the opportunity to experience many different areas of dietetics. Working full time and then coming home to assignments was a challenge, but it went a long ways in solidifying discipline, professionalism and stress management skills. I also really enjoyed our internship class... what I fine group of ladies each with ton of talent and passion for the profession. They totally made the internship experience top notch and I enjoyed hearing more about each interns' rotations on a weekly basis. Before we knew it, nine months had flown by and it was time to graduate!!!
If you're an RD 2 Be, here's my advice: applying and getting into internships is definitely a stressful process and you WILL work hard, but you'll also have a ton of fun. Get to know your fellow interns, they are your allies! Be involved and network, network, network! Find a project and make it your own. Communicate and always pay attention. Keep an open mind and use the variety of experiences to decide where your passion lies. Above all, remember the big picture and don't forget to have some fun!!
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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