My Journey of Becoming a Registered Dietitian

My journey of how I became a dietitian. Sharing everything from when I first realized the importance of nutrition, to past experiences that formed my functional background in nutrition.

How I became a RD.

My Story of How I Became a Dietitian

Where do I begin? Let’s start with when I first began paying attention to nutrition.

High School Sports

I ran both cross country and track in high school. It was during these days I realized just how important nutrition truly is. When I fueled my body with whole foods, focusing on balanced meals, I was able to run with both endurance and speed without experiencing injury, muscle cramps, and early fatigue. A MAJOR shoutout to my parents for teaching me the importance of health. And a big thanks to my mom who taught me how to cook at a young age, always having homemade meals ready to eat.

During my junior year of high school, I took a class that had us explore different career paths. In this class, I created a binder with step-by-step instructions on how to become a nutritionist. At the time, I had no idea of what dietitians were. Funny enough, it would still be a few years until I heard about the dietetics profession.

My First Experience with Functional Medicine

While in high school, my uncle was diagnosed with cancer. During this time, I explored functional medicine closely with my mom, in hopes for a cure. Unfortunately, the cancer my uncle had progressed quickly. The only positive that came out of this hard life lesson was understanding the importance of health.

Health truly is wealth.

We learned how to detox our home from chemicals, different herbs with powerful medicinal benefits, the power of food, the importance of reducing stress, limiting EMF exposure, and I even experienced first hand the power of reiki healing. This was my first insight into functional medicine.

Discovering Dietetics in College

Fast forward to college. I spent my first year and a half as an undecided major. Once again, I took another career exploration class to help decide on a major – all my interests continued to point towards nutrition, and now, physical activity. I explored different majors such as exercise science, food science, physical therapy, and even occupational therapy, but nothing drew me in.

It wasn’t until I went to a nutrition class at a local gym with my mom, where the presenter told me to look into dietetics. After this conversation, it wasn’t long before I realized I needed to transfer from UW-Eau Claire to UW-Stout to obtain a degree in dietetics.

Undergraduate Degree Experiences

After transferring to a new university halfway through my second year of college, I was excited to finally begin my journey of becoming a dietitian. And if I’m being completely honest, it was not easy (lol). Dietetics is very science heavy, requiring classes such as organic chemistry, anatomy and physiology, advanced nutrition, and medical nutrition therapy. UW-Stout also requires 320 hours of field work experience to be completed before graduation. This meant lots of volunteering and working with dietitians in different specialties to complete these hours.

I volunteered at local food pantries and elementary schools teaching about the importance of healthy eating, volunteering in nursing homes, working fundraiser events, and working for my dietetic advisor. I also worked at a bakery that was created by an oncologist, specialized in functional medicine. The focus of his bakery was to create allergen-free breads. Next to the bakery was a beautiful home where individuals from around the globe would stay for weeks on end. The focus was to detox from technology and society to heal from cancer. This was my second experience with functional medicine.

During my junior year of college, I began working with UW-Stout’s sports dietitian. Under her supervision, I worked with our football team, lacrosse team, men’s basketball and baseball teams, and men and women’s track and field. Being around athletes made me realize how much I missed sports. It was during this opportunity I knew I would be combining nutrition and sports during my career.

During ungrad, I also worked as a dietetic technician at Mayo Clinic. This position taught me hands on experiences of patient care, medical nutrition therapy recommended for varying chronic diseases, kitchen and cooking skills, the importance of portion control, management skills, and how to work with the interprofessional team for proper patient care. I worked closely with the inpatient dietitian, shadowing her at care rounds, patient counseling, and creating nutrition education handouts.

My biggest word of advice: if you’re currently studying to become a dietitian, get as much experience as possible. This will make the next step to becoming a dietitian a bit less stressful!

Applying for a Dietetic Internship

During my last year at UW-Stout, I began applying for dietetic internships, a requirement to be completed before taking the RD exam. If I’m being honest, this last year of undergrad was the hardest, most stressful year. Going to school full-time, working part-time, and applying for dietetic internships was no joke.

To apply for a dietetic internship you have to complete the DICAS application, write a personal statement, obtain letters of recommendations, and submit a resume. This was a very taxing process. How it works is you can apply to however many internships you want to, but you will only match with one. I ended up matching with Mount Mary University – my internship also came with an acceptance to graduate school. A win-win!

Graduate School & Dietetic Internship Experiences

After graduating from undergrad, I finished my last summer of working at Mayo Clinic. I was beyond excited to start this new chapter in life, moving down to Milwaukee. The best part, Kraig accepted his first engineer job only 45-minutes away from where I would be moving to. It was so nice having Kraig close for support.

If I’m being honest, my entire experience of my dietetic internship was completely out of my comfort zone. I was in my dietetic internship full-time, full-time graduate school, and I worked for the first part of the year as a graduate assistant, then the second half for 10 hours a week at a factory (better income, haha).

After my last year of undergrad and my internship year, I’m pretty sure I can get through anything, lol. These days were long, stressful, and tiring.

Community Rotation

My first internship rotation was my community rotation – I had a wonderful preceptor. However, we visited high schools with police and police dogs walking the hallways, WIC centers with guards at every door (major eye opener for someone coming from a small town), community centers where an individual threw food in my face (he thought I wrote the “disgusting” menu), and I completed numerous on-the-spot presentations in front of large crowds (not a top skill of mine). I was so happy when this rotation was completed, to say the least!

Clinical Rotation

My next rotation was at Saint Luke’s hospital – I was so excited for this rotation as I was planning to become a clinical dietitian after my internship. However, after this rotation, I swore I would never work in a hospital. EVER. There was no respect from patients or interdisciplinary team members, and several of my preceptors were so rude – they would laugh at my notes if I made a simple mistake. I cried most days in the bathroom and even asked to be removed from this rotation. Unfortunately, I had to finish the entire six months. The last day I walked out of this hospital was arguably one of the best days of my life – such a huge stress relief!

I only had one rotation left until I completed my internship – it was finally the rotation that I was able to choose what area I wanted to shadow in. I chose to work in oncology, as my experience with my uncle drew me to this specialty. My preceptor was amazing, I shadowed the oncologist on multiple occasions during radiation and chemotherapy appointments, and I also had the opportunity to explore acupuncture during this rotation. However, working with patients in the infusion center brought up many terrible memories; working in oncology is no easy position. As interesting as this rotation was, I quickly learned oncology care was not for me.

RD Exam

As my internship came to an end, so did my first year of graduate school. I took the summer off after the internship to unwind from two insanely stressful years and study for the RD exam. And I’m so happy I did! I passed the RD exam on July 2, and was so ready to celebrate 4th of July that weekend. Finally, I received my credentials! As the summer continued, I began applying for jobs, accepting my first dietitian position that next month.

Becoming a dietitian is by no means an easy journey, but it’s so worth it. For those going through this strenuous process of becoming a dietitian, please know – it’s hard, it’s straining, it’s common to have days of doubt and wanting to quit (I’ve had my fair share, believe me). But don’t give up. Being a dietitian is one of the most rewarding careers.

And if you’re lucky enough to have the utmost, most terrible clinical preceptors, just remember. Anyone who is that mean for no reason is simply unhappy. Remember, you’re a student in your internship – you aren’t supposed to know everything. Brush it off and move on.

If you have any questions, leave them below! I’d also love to hear about your own journey of becoming a dietitian. 😊

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About Me page - Abigail Jean
Hello! I’m Abigail Jean, an admirer of health, wellness, food, and nature. I created this blog to share my admirations with other enthusiasts such as you!
I will provide you with the tools you need to create a healthy and happy lifestyle that is both realistic and sustainable. Thank you for visiting Abigail Jean, I look forward to sharing more with you!
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