How to Rock your Dietetic Internship during Uncertain Times

On March 6, 2020, I had an in-person interview for the one and only dietetic internship program I had applied to.

The truth was- I withdrew my application from two other programs after my brother passed away.  My dream program was at the University of Houston. The school my brother had planned to attend after his treatment. I can’t fathom returning to that city without him.

Talks about the coronavirus had already begun in the US by late January, but there was no pandemic when I sat in my interview.

The next week changed everything.

I began my one-year internship and master’s program in May 2020. Directors, interns, and preceptors swiftly shifted gears while being mindful of daily COVID numbers. 

I’ll say it again.

Getting into a dietetic internship is a big deal.

Getting into a dietetic internship during a global pandemic is still a big deal.

I would’ve never imagined the challenges a COVID-internship would entail. So many aspects of my day-to-day were at the mercy of COVID.

How to Rock your Dietetic Internship during Uncertain Times

Be Flexible

My rotations were both in-person and remote during the pandemic. Not all of my rotations sites were able to accommodate interns. With that being stated, I was still able to complete my hours and competencies for the program and perhaps gain skills I wouldn’t have otherwise.

I was able to intern virtually with the ONIE Project where I was able to utilize my nutrition communication skills to contribute to a blog post about summer salsas.

While many of my community rotations were virtual, my in-person rotation was at the OSU County Extension. There I learned more about food preservation through canning. I was able to attend a canning class with local students.

Some of my favorite rotations were with the Oklahoma Beef Council and Dairy Max. I find excitement in critically challenging some of the myths and misinformation about foods such as dairy and beef. These two rotations helped me challenge my own beliefs about agriculture.

Be Creative

Some days working from home was difficult. I found myself dreaming of the ambiance of a coffee shop — which was closed due to shelter-in-place orders. Creating a routine was the best way for me to stay on track and focused.  Video calls and Facetiming with fellow interns definitely helped maintain the sense of community to combat some of the isolating feelings. We also used it as a way to hold each other stay accountable and motivated.

During my virtual rotation at the Oklahoma Indian Clinic, I created nutrition education videos for the summer youth camps. I had never filmed and produced a video on my own, so I figured, why not now? If there is a time to learn (and possibly mess up) it would now.

I created seven videos covering the topic of MyPlate and Parts of a Plant to be used at the virtual summer camp.

Be a Leader

Sometimes leadership involves a change in mindset and saying yes to opportunities while figuring out the details as you go.

Working remotely gave me the opportunity to take charge of how I wanted to experience my dietetics internship. I was able to work independently and use time management skills to accomplish what needed to be done.

COVID truly tested interns at any chance it could. The 2020-2021 cohort of healthcare practitioners I may never be able to put into words.

We’ve hit the ground running and I believe these experiences will make each of us successful dietitians!

I am happy to be on the other end of the internship!

I wish you luck in completing yours!