Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Confessions of a Dietetic Intern (Dietitian to-be)

Today is National Registered Dietitian (RD) Day! Well, today is actually a lot of different days apparently, but for my profession specifically, it is a day to celebrate RDs!

These days, lots of people call themselves nutritionists. To be honest, as I completed a holistic, Nutrition Consultant program years ago, I do believe there are many good nutrition professionals, who aren't necessarily RDs, out there. But what sets RDs apart is that they have to take rigorous coursework (heyoo science, chemistry, and all that jazz), then complete an accredited, Nationally supervised internship program (this is what I am doing right now), and then take an exam to officially become a Registered Dietitian (this will be what I do this Fall). It really is a lot of hard work. 

As I am a dietetic intern, not quite an RD, I thought it would be fun to do a little confessional post about my life as a dietetic intern right now. So, here goes. 

Most people have absolutely no idea what I do every day at UCSF. I remember one day, telling my friend's now husband, that I would be spending my dietetic internship primarily in the hospital. He looked at me, puzzled, and innocently (and hilariously) asked, "So, do you get called into a patient's room when there is a gluten emergency or something!?" This hasn't happened yet, at least. To clear a few things up, in the hospital, specifically, here are just a few things I do, day to day:

  • Participate in rounds to discuss each patient's case with doctors, case management workers, social workers, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech language pathologists
  • See patients to encourage them to eat while in the hospital, because often, they do not feel well enough to do so and maintaining good nutrition is critically important to positive outcomes
  • Perform nutrition-focused physical exams to evaluate for muscle and fat loss, and diagnose malnutrition
  • Perform a myriad of diet educations with patients, including food safety after getting a liver/heart/lung/bone marrow/kidney transplant, following a low sodium diet, post-bariatric surgery diet, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes diets, just to name a few
  • Calculate recommendations for tube feeds and IV nutrition (nutrition that goes directly into your bloodstream, often used when your gut is not working)
  • Review pertinent nutrition labs: electrolytes, triglycerides, blood sugars, liver and pancreatic enzymes, etc...
  • Talk about poop. A lot. If you haven't pooped after surgery, you probably can't leave the hospital. Poop is huge. And I love it.
And on that note, working in a hospital is just ONE area for an RD to work in. Part of the reason I made a career change to become an RD is because RDs work in a number of diverse environments. For the next two weeks, I am working with the San Francisco Unified School District on their school breakfast, lunch, and after-school supper programs. Yes, RDs may work in hospitals. But they also work in schools, with sports teams, pharmaceutical companies, private practice, start-ups, foodservice, grocery stores, nonprofits, blogging, government, and so many more cool places. YAY for always having a job.

People think I always eat healthy. LOL. Listen, I will say, I do eat pretty healthy most of the time. As a nutrition professional, I truly feel it would be irresponsible for me to not try to practice what I preach. But what is most important to me, is that I enjoy my food and how it makes me feel. I love 'healthy foods,' partly because I grew up with a Mom who was a health-conscious chef, so my taste buds have been fortunate to be exposed to healthy foods from an early age. However, anyone who truly knows me, knows I absolutely love Hershey's chocolate. It's random and cheap (give me Hershey's over fancy chocolate any day), and I could eat 20 Hershey kisses at a time. And sometimes I do! Thanks, Mom, for instilling this love in me. 

 Sometimes I eat this...beautiful bounty from the Farmer's Market.

Sometimes I eat this...these were the cupcakes from our cake testing for our wedding. This was one of the best days of my life. Give me all the frosting.

I love to self-experiment when it comes to holistic health. I recognize there is a lot of wacky information out there when it comes to nutrition. But, I will say, sometimes I try to weed through health trends by self-experimenting. Whether it is doing whole 30, drinking collagen, natural skin products, or getting colonics, I kind of love trying it all. Things I want to try in the future (aka, when I have a good paycheck), cupping and cryotherapy.

I am not the food police. Often, when I tell people what I do for a living, they immediately reply with a statement about how they eat, usually defending it. I didn't ask! People are also very curious about how I eat. I guess I get that, but it is important to recognize nutrition is highly individualized. This is a very interesting pattern I have seen for years now. I am not the food police.

I do not quite know what I want to do, career-wise, after I become an RD. I want to work more in the Intensive Care Unit. I want to work at a start-up. I want to work at Google. I want to build my private practice business. I want to work with a Naturopathic doctor or healthcare professional. I want to improve my blogging. Lets just say, I have a lot of goals.

Ever since making my career change, I have not looked back. The other day, an RD asked me what my career was before I went back to school to become an RD. I explained to her how I worked in advertising, working with pharmaceutical companies to market drugs to patients and doctors. I told her I wasn't passionate about it and that I was burned out. And kind of miserable. She replied, "Wow, it must have taken a lot to completely leave a well-paying job, go back to school, and do all this. You're so close to the finish line." I am not very good at taking compliments, but I am actually going to graciously accept this one. The past three plus years have been really freaking hard at times, taxing on my relationship with my soon-to-be hubby, bank account, and social life. I've done pretty damn good. But I couldn't have done it without Brent or my family or my closest friends cheering me on. There are days at UCSF when I just think to myself, I never thought I would get here or be able to achieve this. And here I am. So close to the finish line. 


Monday, January 2, 2017

Thoughts On 2016 and Embracing 2017

Although this blog may have taken an unintentional hiatus over the past ~ 6 months, I certainly have not forgotten about it. Rather, I am grateful I can always come to this space to share my thoughts, even if for just a few readers (Hi, Mom). 

This past Thursday night, I did (my beloved, thank goodness for gift cards) Barry's Bootcamp. As always, it was a fantastic class taught by my favorite instructor, and I was joined by Brent, as well as some friends, making the butt-kicking all the more enjoyable. At the end of the class, the instructor led us through a meditation/reflection, where we thought about one thing we were most proud of in 2016 and one thing we were not as happy about. Moving through this exercise triggered me to think more about reflecting on the past year and how I want to move forward in 2017. So, here it goes. 

The accomplishment I am most proud of this year is getting matched to do my dietetic internship at UCSF. After one year of night school while working full time, followed by two years of full-time schooling, volunteering, and waitressing, all my hard work finally felt as though it had paid off. Now, I am five months into my internship and I can honestly say, every damn day I feel so grateful to be learning at UCSF. Not only is the internship exceptionally organized, but I get exposure to so many different areas of nutrition daily. I can write more on my thoughts in another post, but lets just say, I am grateful.

This past year (well, really the past three years) has been difficult as far as school/work-life balance. I feel as though I have had to say no to a lot of events, trips, or get togethers, for not so fun reasons. While of course, there is a time and place for saying no, which can be hard, I am excited about having a little more free time towards the end of the internship and after. I've hit the age where friends are moving out of the city, maybe even out of California, and I want to soak up time with them. And if I am really being honest, I find myself craving more time with my family, including my Mom and my sister. I want to be a more dedicated family member.

2017 will be a big year for me. And for Brent. We are getting married in March after a year and a half engagement. I am excited about our impending wedding, not just because I get to officially marry Brent, but also because we will be surrounded by friends and family from near and far; I don't want to take that for granted for one moment. I want to remember every second of it. 

On July 28th of 2017, I will finish my dietetic internship at UCSF. After finishing, I will likely study for a month or two for my exam to become a Registered Dietitian. Once I pass the exam, I think I will officially feel relieved. Professionally, my big goal of 2017 will be to get a steady paying job. I have worked my butt off the past 3 or so years to put myself through graduate school and this internship. I would be lying if I said I was not excited about a more steady paycheck, even if it is not that much. After all, I'll be starting, from scratch, a new career. 

Another goal, professionally, and a bit personally, in 2017, will be to get back to my holistic health roots. I have always been passionate about holistic health and preventative medicine, as evidenced by my completing Bauman College's Nutrition Consultant Program and my I-ACT certification as a Colonic Hydrotherapist, but it has been hard to focus on this in my dietetic internship, which emphasizes Western medicine (which of course, I expected going into it). There is a time and place for both, I just want to make sure I am still delving into both.

And really, that is about it. I don't have a long list of other goals really. 2017 will be a year of embracing big transitions - entering into a marriage and becoming a Registered Dietitian. 

For anyone with health-related resolutions this year, I leave you with this thought. Throughout my internship thus far, I have seen many very sick people (and of course, some not as sick people) and people who have been dealt some real shitty cards. Please treat your body with kindness because you deserve it. And never, ever take for granted any workout you do, whether it's walking or bootcamp or yoga. Your body is truly a gift and you should be thankful for every time you are able to move it in a way that feels good. These days, after each workout, I find myself thanking my body over and over again, for allowing me to move it. Please consider doing the same. 

Happy New Year!