It’s Monday. Probably the best Monday of my life. Wanna know why?
Oh, you can’t read that? Let me make it a little bigger for you!!
That’s right. Last night was match night for Dietetic Internships. First they make you wait 6 weeks from the time you submit your applications until the day you find out, AND THEN they make you wait until 7pm on match day to find out. It was torture! But it was all worth it because I matched And I’m one step closer to becoming a Registered Dietitian. For the first time I actually feel totally confident that it will happen. Getting matched to an internship was the one thing that’s been hovering over my head for the past 3 years that was at least partially out of my control. Now that I have a spot in an internship, I have no doubt that I can successfully complete the internship and then go on to successfully pass the RD exam!
There are lots of different ways to become an RD. I thought this would be a good time to tell you guys a little bit more about me and the path I took. WARNING- long, rambling post ahead!
When I went to college for the first time, I attended a small, private university in Ohio. I majored in Psychology, graduated in 3 and a half years, had an awesome time and even met my hubby! After we graduated in December 2006, I went to work for a brand new preschool. I spent 6 months teaching 4 and 5 year olds all sorts of fun things. I realized pretty quickly that it was not what I wanted to do with my life. I love kids and enjoy being around them. I just didn’t want a career as a teacher.
One thing that really stuck out to me as I got to know my kids was their complete and total lack of nutrition education. So many of them had never had vegetables that I eat every day, like red peppers and sweet potatoes. Another thing that stuck out was their lack of physical activity. When I was a kid, I was constantly running around outside, playing tag and riding my bike. But when it came time for recess, these kids were choosing to just sit in the grass or sit in front of the computer.
It made me sad. I started making little changes to my lesson plans so they could include things like fruit and veggie tastings and growing plants from seeds. At recess I introduced the kids to games like freeze tag and simon says to get them moving. When I left the preschool, I was more focused than ever on healthy eating and nutrition. About a month after I quit my job, the hubby and I got engaged (August 2007). I contemplated going back to school but knew that it would be too much to try to look for a job, go to school and plan a wedding. I promised myself that if I was still thinking about it after the wedding was over that I would do it!
I started working for an insurance company after a few months (September 2007) and had a steady job there that I didn’t hate, but I definitely didn’t love. After we got married (September 2008), I realized that going back to school was what I needed to do in order to be truly happy. I researched programs in the area and decided to start at a community college since it was significantly cheaper but still had a reputable program. I applied, was accepted and enrolled to start classes in January of 2009.
The first few quarters, I took 3 classes per quarter and worked 40 hours a week. I had three quarters before I could officially start the Diet Tech program so I used them to take prerequisite classes. And let me tell you, I had a lot of them. When I went to school the first time, I didn’t take any math or physical sciences. I hated them and wanted to avoid them at all costs. I didn’t really need them to be a pscyh major (which is why it was the best major to pick- in my opinion).
That approach wasn’t going to fly this time around. The dietetics curriculum is VERY science based. I had to take a lot of basic biology, chemistry and math classes before I could even start taking the courses required for the program.
A Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR) does a lot of the same work an RD, but they must always work under an RD’s license. In the fall of 2009, when I officially started the Diet Tech program, we had someone from Ohio State come and talk to us about their RD program. I immediately realized that I wanted more independence than I could have as a Diet Tech, so I met with the necessary people to figure out what I needed to do to become an RD. Ohio State had an agreement worked out with the community college which allowed me to finish the Diet Tech program and then transfer all of those credits over to OSU to get credit for courses in their program. Plus, I would be required to take many additional courses above and beyond the Diet Tech program for the RD program.
Over the next six quarters, I whittled away at the list of courses I needed to complete. I had to take a different practicum each quarter to help complete the 450 hours of supervised practical experience that’s required to become a Diet Tech. We rotated through a long-term care facility, a WIC clinic, a school kitchen and a hospital. In December of 2010, I quit my job so that I could take more classes. We were spending 8-16 hours a week in practicums, plus going to several classes and it was getting too hard to make up the extra hours at work that I had to miss to go to class.
In January 2011, I started taking classes at Ohio State as well. There were a few prereqs for the RD program that I couldn’t take at the community college. So, for two quarters I was taking classes at two schools and working part-time. In March 2011 I got a part-time job as a Diet Aide because I had no job related experience in the field and that’s pretty much a requirement for getting an internship.
In June 2011, I graduated from the community college. I actually was the Valedictorian of my class (nerd alert!) and I had to give a speech in front of a couple thousand people. It was terrible! While completing the Diet Tech program and taking courses for OSU, I took 36 classes including TONS of math and science.
Some of the classes I took:
- Algebra I
- Algebra II
- General Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
Plus all of the nutrition classes. And guess what- I earned A’s in every single one of them! Courses that I avoided for years because I didn’t think I could pass them, I not only passed- but excelled in. It wasn’t easy. I spent HOURS and HOURS studying, especially for anatomy and o-chem…but I did it. And I proved to myself that I can do pretty much anything I put my mind to.
I continued taking classes at OSU, more science- including 2 quarters of Biochemistry) and in September 2011, I took my registration exam and become a Dietetic Technician, Registered. Once I become and RD, I will no longer be able to use the DTR credentials, but I wanted to have them now in case something were to happen and I couldn’t become an RD (ie if I hadn’t gotten matched to an internship).
I am doing a didactic Dietetics program at Ohio State. This means that you complete all your coursework and then during your senior year you apply for an internship. If you get matched, you graduated from the school and then continue to do your internship the next year, possibly at the same school (like i’m doing) or at a different school. Internships are extremely competitive. Less than 50% of dietetic students that apply are matched. For the internship I matched to, they had 100 people apply last year and they accepted 12. SO, it’s pretty stressful. I applied to 4 schools. OSU is the only program here in Columbus and the other three I applied to were distance internships that would have allowed me to stay here and do my internship by securing my own preceptors (RDs willing to take responsibility for me during my supervised practice hours- all 1200 of them that are required).
A lot of schools, including OSU, also have coordinated programs which allow you to complete your supervised practice hours WHILE you are taking classes, instead of waiting until after. These programs are generally smaller and more competitive than didactic programs and going this route just wasn’t in the cards for me.
So, here we are in April of 2011. I just started my last quarter at OSU. I’m taking my last high-level nutrition class called Medical Nutrition Therapy. I’ll graduate in June and in August I’ll start my internship which will last for about 9 months. You basically have to pay tuition to the school and then work 40 hours a week for free. And it’s not cheap. Lots of people think it’s ridiculous how hard they make it to become an RD when our country obviously needs more of them.
I agree…but I guess it also makes it that much more of an accomplishment.
After I complete my internship, I’ll be eligible to take the registration exam and become an RD!
After I complete my internship, I”ll begin searching for jobs. One of the best parts of the Diet Tech program was the practicums. I’ve had the chance to experience a lot of different dietetic career paths already and I’ve found that I’m drawn to the community side. I love all the different options there are with regards to organizations you can work for. I also love community education and would love to potentially become a Certified Diabetes Educator. Just thinking about the road ahead gets me so excited!!! So many options. I’ve considered becoming a certified personal trainer so that I can combine the diet and exercise components and I would love to do some individual consulting that involve education, meal plans, etc. I feel like the possibilites are endless!!!
So there you have it friends! My story, my path, my life. Going back to school with no guarantee I’d get an internship was the biggest risk I’ve ever taken. I’m not the traditional college senior. I didn’t take the traditional path. But I’m proof that if you put your mind to something and you really want it bad enough, YOU CAN DO IT! And i’ve got a 4.0 and an internship to prove it
Follow your dreams! They make life worth it!
PS…Just want to say thanks to my hubby, my parents, my in-laws and my friends that have supported me for the past 3 1/2 years. They’ve encouraged me, celebrated with me, listened to me complain and pushed me to keep going when I wanted to give up. I wouldn’t be celebrating today without each and every one of them.
And also, a big thanks to all of you for all the tweets and messages last night on Twitter and Facebook. I was overwhelmed by all the congratulations and well wishes. Knowing that I have all of you supporting me and believing in me, and in this blog, makes this most recent accomplishment even sweeter than it already is.