If there is one quote that can sum up my time as an intern, this is it.
I had a great week of staff relief back at the nursing center I was at in November. The dietitian out there is absolutely phenomenal and someone I aspire to be like when I am practicing as a dietitian. She is also an incredible preceptor and I feel like it was really beneficial for me to spend another week with her. She really just let me loose and didn’t hold my hand at all, which I think is the best way to learn at this stage of my education.
Today was a little nuts, in more than one way, but for the first time I truly felt confident in my ability to handle whatever came my way. My preceptor left around 10:45 because her kids were getting out of school super early for their last day of the school year. I thought I had everything under control when she left. I had 3 assessments in the short stay unit to do and 4 quarterly focus notes to write for meetings that afternoon in one of the long term units. All was fine and dandy until all hell broke loose. I won’t go into details of the scenario, but I found myself in the care management RNs office while she was on the phone with a resident’s doctor trying to get a sticky situation straightened out. It was going to require my assistance in some way or another and I was listening in to find out what I would need to do.
I had a moment of panic when I realized my preceptor was gone but as soon as I got talking with the RN I realized I was completely capable of doing whatever she needed me to do. When it was decided that I would do an assessment note I had no hesitation in my recommendations and knew that it would be something my preceptor would agree with. In fact I called her to make sure that was the case before I filed it.
It’s moments like that where I truly appreciate being involved in the team aspect of patient care. It’s nice to have the respect of other health professionals and have them realize the value of dietitians.
Because that is not always the case.
Going back to the quote above, I receive a large amount of criticism on almost a daily basis. Sometimes it is from preceptors guiding me and helping me learn, sometimes it’s from patients who have no interest in speaking to a dietitian, sometimes it’s from friends who have their own opinions of the career path I’ve chosen, and sometimes it’s people who literally just don’t know what the heck they are talking about.
Today I received a very large amount of criticism. Usually I just let it go, but today was a little bit more than I’m used to and a lot of it wasn’t presented in a really pleasant way. I have always been pretty good at reminding myself that the worst thing you can do with criticism is take it personally but today it really stung. Today it took a lot of thinking to help me realize how I take that criticism seriously and use it to make some positive changes.
I had someone who should know better tell me it was “unfortunate that dietitians are stuck 25 years in the past when it comes to research.” Honestly, this woman just didn’t know what she was talking about and it makes me wonder what kind of dietitians she’s interacted with lately that would make her say that.
Let me clear this up, we’re not stuck 25 years in the past. I get a journal mailed to me every month that is full of the newest research in nutrition and dietetics. As easy as it would have been to just brush it off as “this woman has no idea what she’s talking about” it made me realize that it really is super important for dietetics to be evidence based. Every recommendation we make should always be backed up by research so when someone questions it there is an explanation that is valid. Of course that won’t solve all the problems, because some people will believe what they want to believe regardless, but it’s important.
I also had someone tell me that most people view dietitians as focusing too much on micronutrients and not enough on food. My first thought after hearing this was “90% of the people I talk to as a dietetic intern have no idea what a dietitian is, so I double most people think that” but after asking for some elaboration I realized this comment goes in line with a lot of comments I hear from dietitians. Consumer messages need to be easy to understand. Yes, a large amount of nutrition research focuses on micronutrients because there is an growing awareness of their role in health. Nutrition is an incredibly young science compared to sciences like physics, biology, and chemistry. A few decades ago we didn’t even know all the vitamins!
We are literally learning more every day about the role of micronutrients in health so it is very true that a lot of research focuses on that. The hard part is that the consumer gets bombarded with all these new research findings, many of which are just preliminary findings or based off one study and then when things change because research has continued, nutrition gets criticism.
If you want the focus to be on food, here’s the message I have: eat real food.
Simple as that, right?
Wrong. Dietetics is so much more than food. If we just focused on food we would have to place in healthcare.
What this piece of criticism made me realize is that dietitians really have to promote their skill set and make it known that our training gives us the ability to do so many things.
It’s also made me realize that I’m going to have to learn to not take it personally, especially when these broad statements are made, because neither one of these people were making any reference to the work I do on a daily basis or the contribution I make as a dietetic intern and future dietitian.
It makes me even more passionate about the career I have chosen and even more determined to make sure every single interaction where I am representing dietetics leaves those I’m interacting with feeling good about dietitians, not feeling like they need to criticize them.