New feature! Starting today, I’ll occasionally have guest posts from people who completed their internships in different programs. First up, a post from Tessa Nguyen, who just completed her dietetic internship at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. If you would like to get in contact with Tessa, you can reach her on Twitter at @TNutritionista or check out her blog.
Hi everyone! I’m Tessa Nguyen and I just completed my Dietetic Internship through Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina. I was excited when Christine asked me to write a guest post about my time during my internship, as I love hearing how Dietetic Interns’ experiences vary from program to program.
When I started my search to see which Dietetic Internship Programs I wanted to apply to, I was drawn to Meredith College’s not only for their focus on developing leadership, but also because their internship comprised of rotations in multiple areas of nutrition. I had a strong idea I wanted to end up in sports nutrition, but I still wanted to work and gain insight into what other areas of nutrition had to offer.
Meredith’s internship consists of rotations of varying lengths in different areas of nutrition including food service management, clinical, wellness, community, long term care and enrichment. Our enrichment rotation was the chance for us to work with a Registered Dietitian in any field of nutrition and in any state or country of our choosing. This was great for me, as I was able to spend more time in two of my favorite areas of nutrition: sports performance and wellness.
Here are just a few highlights from a couple of my favorite rotations.
Food Service Management Rotation at Rex Healthcare Hospital
My first rotation was with the food service management team at Rex Healthcare. I was ecstatic to learn I had landed this rotation, as I had heard many great things about the food service team and the Black Hat Chefs. I went to culinary school before graduating with my Bachelors in Culinary Nutrition, so I am very passionate about making healthy food taste good. The first day I stepped into Rex’s kitchen, my eyes were wide with surprise. I had never worked in a hospital where the chefs were actually using knives to cut up ingredients, rather than whipping out the can openers and scooping out food onto patient trays.
Rex’s Director of Culinary and Nutrition Services, Jim McGrody, is the namesake behind the Black Hat Chefs concept of providing training and education to the cooks within the hospital to learn the skills and techniques of proper cooking. One of his right-hand-men in leading the evolution of hospital food includes Rex’s Executive Chef, Ryan Conklin. Both Jim and Ryan were great mentors during this rotation for me, as they were both open to letting me fly free in the kitchen to gain as much insight and experience as I wanted.
One of Meredith’s food service management projects includes putting on a “theme day.” This was the opportunity to create a meal and serve it to the patrons and staff of the hospital. As many people have grown to know how strong of an influence my Vietnamese background plays into my cooking, I wanted to make pho for my theme day. Pho is a traditional Vietnamese beef noodle soup made from a hearty, rich beef broth with rice noodles and various aromatic herbs. I grew even more eager to share this meal with those at Rex when I saw how excited Ryan and Jim got when I mentioned how I was thinking of making this meal for my theme day. I know I wouldn’t have received the same encouragement had I not been in a healthcare facility that valued and practiced from-scratch cooking by using proper cooking techniques. This truly was an awesome experience and I always look forward to the updates from Chefs Jim and Ryan on how they are advancing and changing the world of hospital food.
Enrichment Rotation at EXOS (formerly Athletes’ Performance) at Raleigh Orthopaedics
I ended the year with my enrichment rotation in performance nutrition at EXOS at Raleigh Orthopaedics. I was looking forward to this rotation the most, as I got to hand pick both who my preceptor would be and which area of nutrition I would be working in. I had the great fortune to work with Gabe Staub, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS. He showed me the ropes of everything he does from when the client first arrives at the facility to the nutrition follow ups when they leave for the season. Gabe has a strength and conditioning training background, which made it very cool to see how he was able to incorporate nutrition tips into his training sessions and vice versa. As someone who also has a dual-background, this made me realize how much clients value a professional who wears multiple hats. These athletes are always looking for the “edge” in their performance, so they actively seek out Registered Dietitians that are also knowledgeable and educated in another area that can help them reach that next level of performance.
I also appreciated this rotation because I was exposed to a new nutrition concept or supplement each day. These clients are bombarded with different products from their coaches, management and/or teammates. They would then turn to us with questions regarding which type of diet they should be on or if they should be taking a certain supplement. It’s our job to sort through the products and research to see if they were safe for them to be taking while competing. This kept me on my toes and gave myself even more assurance as to why I want to continue working in sports nutrition. This particular field of nutrition is constantly evolving and changing and I look forward to learning more about it every day.
As you can see, these highlights are from only two of the six rotations offered through Meredith College’s Dietetic Internship Program. As I was writing this post, it’s amazing to see how a few paragraphs can sum up a year of your life! My internship experience was truly great, as I had the chance to gain knowledge and experience from so many Registered Dietitians, Chefs and other healthcare professionals over the course of the year. Although having our completion ceremony last week was bittersweet, I look forward to starting my career as a Registered Dietitian and seeing where it takes me next!