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.